Crews working fire at Bethlehem Baptist Church - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Investigation in Berkeley County after Masonic lodge burns and church window broken

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A fire in the Alvin community in Berkeley County is being investigated by the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office. A 2-story Masonic lodge building burned completely through the roof of the building.

It's not just what happened at the lodge, but also what happened at the church across the street that leads some to believe the fire may be an arson.

The Prince Hall Masonic Lodge #193 suffered extensive damage. The fire started some time after five o-clock. Chief Peter Prioleau of the Alvin Volunteer Fire Department said, "we had some good response from mutual aid fire departments. We usually work with mutual aid teams."

Departments in St. Stephen, Macedonia, Bonneau and Santee Circle all helped put out the fire.

At the same time as the Masonic lodge fire, an outer window at the Bethlehem Baptist Church across from the lodge was discovered broken.

The two incidents shocked church leaders like the Chairman of the Church Board of Trustees, Ervin Brown, "I really couldn't believe it. When they called me on the phone and told me about it, I said no, this can't be true. Because this is a very knit community."

Michael Beauford lives right across the street from the church. At around 5:15PM, he says he saw two men in the parking lot of the church, "and then I missed them, and I look(ed) again, and they were in the cemetery. It wasn't two minutes later, I heard my neighbor screaming. When I heard her screaming she said, ‘Them guys was beating on the window of the church,' and she said it looked like there's a fire out there… then I went out in the field, and I saw the lodge hall was burning."

Beauford grabbed a phone to call 911, "I saw one of the guy running, the shortest one, apparently the taller one was in front of him, but they were running. This building was in flame then."

In addition to being the fire chief, Chief Prioleau is also the Secretary of the lodge, and a deacon at the church.

He says he hopes they find whoever did this, "hopefully they'll get to the bottom of this. We just pray for the people that did it. That they might find some comfort, or maybe they need help."

If you have any information on what happened, call Crimestoppers at 554-1111, or log on to www.5541111.com.

 

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