Lightning strike believed responsible for West Tennessee church fire

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FRUITLAND, Tenn. — Fire has destroyed a piece of West Tennessee history.

It appeared lightning hit the Fruitland Presbyterian Church Tuesday night.

State Fire Marshals and ATF agents were called out to the Gibson County church to investigate the cause of the fire.

By first light Wednesday, members of the congregation came to see what was left of their church and share their memories.

One of them was Carolyn Butler.

“I’m  pretty sad today, because this is a big part of Fruitland to me. I just really am sad,” said Butler.

She remembered the good times, the spirit filled revivals, and the role Fruitland Presbyterian Church has played in her life.

“I met my husband and he was from Medina. And we got married here 61 years ago,” she said.

Wednesday Carolyn, her brother Jimmy and their friend Elaine Dooley came to see what was left of the church after Tuesday night’s devastating fire.

“Look at the piano. There’s the piano;there’s the piano,” said Butler.

Yes, the same piano that was played at her wedding in 1954 managed to escape the flames.

WREG was told a lightning strike is believed to have started the fire which took Gibson County firefighters most of the night to extinguish.

Hazel Moss lives across the street from the church and said Tuesday night’s weather was stormy.

“I know lightning hit it. I mean I’m almost eighty years old and I know when lightning hits something. And it scared me,” said Moss.

She said she’ll never forget how quickly the church went up in flames.

“Everything was red around here cause it had done busted into flames,” said Moss.

The bell that called so many people to worship every Sunday morning will now be silent until church members decide if they will rebuild or move on.

That’s something Dooley said she just can’t think about right now.

“I been crying to tell you the truth. I really been upset. It’s really hard on us. It’s sad. It’s really sad,” she said.

The church was established in the 1800’s .

We’re told investigators have found no indication thus far, that anything other than lightning started the fire.

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