GREELEYVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Authorities say they are continuing to investigate the cause of the fire that destroyed Mount Zion AME Church in Williamsburg County Tuesday night and have not yet determined the cause.
The fire broke out at approximately 8:30 p.m. and took nearly two hours to extinguish. Police say the church is a total loss.
"We will stay together and move forward and seek to help them get back to a place where they need to be in terms of a worship center and site," Elder Allen Perry, with a local church, said Wednesday.
Tragedy hit Mt. Zion AME again; twenty years ago, it was burned down at the hands of members in the KKK.
"It brought back those old feelings as to what happened at that time," Greeleyville Mayor Jessie Parker, said.
Crews remained on the scene along with deputies from Williamsburg County and agents from the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigating the cause of the fire.
"We are not going to leave any stone unturned," Special agent for South Carolina ATF, Craig Chilcott, said. "We're going to bring all the assets of the federal government to investigate this fire."
Chilcott said it is premature to release specific information about the case while the investigation is going on.
"We haven't ruled anything in, or anything out at this point," Chilcott said. "We'll let the case dictate and we're going to investigate it as the facts will ultimately determine what occurred."
The community is shaken following this news, they're hearing once again.
"Regardless of what the situation dictates, we're going to come together as a community," Stanley Pasley, Supervisor for Williamsburg County, said.
However, hope and faith in those working the case is what is getting them through.
"We will allow law enforcement to do what it does best," Senator Ronnie Sabb, representing District 32, said. "Again, we have full confidence in their ability to do just those things."
"We are never without hope," Perry said. "Weeping indeed endures for a night, but joy always comes in the morning."
The plan is to rebuild the church. Pasley said the county will set up a fund in the coming days to help with the reconstruction.
"You can burn the building down, but you can't burn the church
down, because the church is in people's hearts," Gwendolyn Brown-Fraiser, who lives in the area, said. "So I think we can take that away."
A firefighter was transported to the hospital for heat exhaustion but was treated and released at approximately 4 a.m. Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning, a federal investigator told the Associated Press the cause of the fire did not appear to be arson.