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      Historic Newberry church a total loss after early morning fire

      NEWBERRY (WACH) - One of the oldest Lutheran churches in South Carolina is a total loss after a fire Thursday morning.

      Newberry Sheriff Lee Foster said fire crews were sent to St. Paul Lutheran Church just outside of the town of Newberry around 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

      According to Foster, the church is a total loss. So far, there are no reports of injury. Highway 773 is closed in the vicinity of the church.

      Initial reports from the sheriff indicate the fire started from the back of the church near the education building then spread through the sanctuary. Eventually the entire building was engulfed in flames. It took firefighters from multiple locations about an hour to get the blaze under control.

      According to Bishop Herman Yoos of the South Carolina Senate of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Paul was established in 1761.

      He says despite the fire he knows Pastor Brent Nichols and his congregation will press on.

      â??I do know that God works through the most difficult moments and we believe that we are standing on Christ and that Christ alone gives us the strength we need to gather together to rebuild. To be the community that God is calling us to be and this church will get through this difficult time. Their faith will grow even stronger,â?? says Bishop Herman Yoos.

      Heavy smoke was still coming from the structure nearly 4 hours after fire crews arrived at the scene.

      Authorities say the church was a granite building, which caused major problems for the responding units. Some firefighters had to be pulled aside to be hydrated to make sure they did not suffer from heat exhaustion.

      Foster says the investigation has been turned over to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is customary procedure for church fires.