Lightning Strike Cause of Fire That Destroyed Former Wells Twp. Church
A lightning strike caused by severe thunderstorms and heavy rains that passed through the area early Sunday night is being listed as the cause of a fire that destroyed the former Wells Valley Methodist Church shortly after 7:30 p.m. The one-story wooden structure, reported to have been built in the 1800s, was located along Route 915 in Wells Township.
Hustontown Fire Chief Darius DeShong said the structure was fully engulfed when initial volunteers arrived on scene. Hustontown volunteers were assisted at the scene by mutual aid companies, including those from the Everett, Saxton, Six Mile Run, Breezewood, McConnellsburg and Robertsdale, Wood & Broad Top (RW&BT) volunteer fire companies.
DeShong reported that the building is owned by Robbie Hockensmith, who lives next door. Antiques owned by another individual were stored in the building, and it is unknown if there is insurance to cover the loss of the building and contents.
A state police fire marshal was asked to investigate the cause of the blaze, although it is not considered to be suspicious. DeShong is listing the building and contents as a “total loss.”
Despite the thunderstorms, the blaze could be seen burning in the night sky from several directions. Heavy lightning could be seen flashing across the sky while firefighters concentrated on bringing the blaze under control.
The storm that passed through the area and continued during the blaze produced severe thunderstorms and heavy rains that caused washouts and flooding in several areas, including along Route 913 on Robertsdale Mountain and into low-ying areas along the Wells Tannery Road. Large rocks and debris could be seen covering different areas of local and state highways.
Firefighters were on scene for nearly three hours.