Fire breaks out at S.C. church
Published 9:33 am Wednesday, July 1, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. — An African-American church in South Carolina that was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan in 1995 caught fire again Tuesday night, though authorities said it was too soon to say what caused the latest blaze, which broke out on a night of frequent storms. No one was believed to be inside at the time.
The fire at the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal church in Greeleyville broke out at a time when federal authorities are investigating conflagrations at several other predominantly black churches — including one Friday at a church near Aiken, South Carolina — but so far the fires don’t appear to be related.
Greeleyville is a town of about 400 people around 50 miles north of Charleston, where a pastor and eight members of a historic black church were fatally shot on June 17 in what authorities are investigating as a hate crime.
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Agents from the State Law Enforcement Division were on their way to the church before the fire was out, Division Chief Mark Keel said. But he said they will have to wait until the hot spots are extinguished before using dogs and other investigative tools to figure out what started it. He said investigators will be on the scene first thing Wednesday morning.
“We do know they apparently had some strong storms,” Keel said. “Talked to a guy who said they had a lot of lightning down there tonight. I don’t know whether that had anything to do with it at all.”