Officials: Lightning strike leads to fire inside Lynchburg church

Firefighters at the scene of the fire Thursday morning (Lydia Johnson/WSET)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) - Fire investigators say a lightning strike caused a Lynchburg church to catch fire Thursday morning.

A member of Trinity Episcopal Church says he called the fire department around 7:30 a.m.

David Johnson said he noticed a strange smell in the church Wednesday morning when he was there with his wife.

"I looked around, couldn't find anything. Then this morning, I just got a premonition that I should come in and check around. And I came into the parish hall, and there was some smoke," Johnson said.

Firefighters cut a hole in the sanctuary floor to quickly extinguish the blaze. They say no one was injured.

The cause? Firefighters say lightning struck a tree in the back yard of the church.

"There would be roots stretching across this ground that would lead to this gas main here. It looks like the electricity followed the gas line and ruptured inside the structure -- in the floor," Brian Younger with the Lynchburg Fire Department said.

Johnson hopes the congregation can meet in the fellowship hall until the sanctuary is fixed.

Fire officials weren't able to confirm a monetary damage estimate.

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