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The sanctuary at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Alexander County was destroyed when lightning started a fire Saturday.

The church’s steeple was engulfed in flames minutes after officials said it was hit by a bolt of lightning during the Saturday storm. According to a published report, firefighters inside Bethlehem Community Fire and Rescue said they also heard the lightning strike the church, which is located just across the street from their department. Crews from Alexander, Catawba, and Caldwell Counties responded to fight the blaze.

The fire quickly spread through the attic of the sanctuary and into the children’s center where Sunday School is held. There was nobody inside the sanctuary when the fire started. Vacation Bible School wrapped up earlier in the week.

According to the published report, Alexander County Emergency Management Director Russell Greene estimated up to 100 firefighters helped put out the fire, which was contained between 5-5:30 p.m. The report says the quick reactions of firefighters and a firewall may have helped salvage a remaining Fellowship hall and other classrooms. Firefighters remained at the scene throughout the night monitoring and extinguishing any hotspots or areas that may have reignited.

Some firefighters were treated at the scene either as a precaution or for minor injuries. No major injuries were reported. Sunday service was held at the nearby Bethlehem Elementary School.

25-year-old Ursula Octavia Shuford of 3rd Street Place S.W. in Hickory was arrested by Hickory Police early this morning (July 17) on one felony count of possession of cocaine. She is accused of possessing 1.5 grams of crack cocaine.

Shuford was taken into custody without incident on 14th Avenue Drive S.W. in Hickory. She was processed at Hickory Police headquarters and then taken to the Catawba Co. Detention Facility under a $1,000 secured bond. She has since been released. An appearance in District Court was set for Monday (July 20) in Newton.

Friday, 17 July 2015 13:54

Funeral Home in Newton Damaged by Fire

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Firefighters responded this morning (July 17) to a structure fire at the Willis-Reynolds Funeral Home at 56 Northwest Boulevard in Newton.

Newton Fire Chief Kevin Yoder told WHKY that passers-by first noticed smoke coming from the building’s roof. Moments later, the Newton Fire Department received a call from within the building, followed by a fire alarm. Newton Firefighters were alerted at 10:27 a.m. and arrived at the scene about two minutes later.

Firefighters entered the attic and saw that the fire had spread into the rafters and to the roof. The fire was brought under control by 11:05 a.m.

No injuries were reported. The building was evacuated and Northwest Boulevard (Highway 321) was closed to allow access to a water supply. The road re-opened at about 11:30 a.m.

Authorities believe radiant heat from the funeral home’s crematory caused the fire. No specific damage estimates are available at this time, but Chief Yoder described the damages as moderate. The official cause of the fire and a more detailed damage estimate will be released when the investigation is complete.

Catawba County E.M.S., Newton-Conover Rescue, Newton Police and the Dept. of Transportation also responded to the scene. The Conover Fire Department responded to other calls while Newton Firefighters were on the scene at the funeral home.

35-year-old Jason Duane Colley of Charlotte Street in Conover was arrested by Hickory Police shortly before ten o’clock last night (July 16) on one felony count of possession of a schedule I controlled substance and one misdemeanor count each of simple possession of a schedule IV controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was arrested for allegedly possessing one dosage unit of Ecstasy and six dosage units of Alprazolam. In addition, Colley was charged with a felony probation violation.

He was taken into custody without incident at a laundromat on 12th Avenue N.E. and placed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility under a $15,000 secured bond. A first appearance in District Court was set for today in Newton with a Superior Court date on the probation violation scheduled for July 20.

22-year-old Keasha Lynn Coleman was arrested Thursday (July 16) by authorities in Burke County. She’s charged on a true bill of indictment with felony possession with intent to manufacture, sell, and deliver schedule III controlled substance and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. Coleman was being held in jail under $61,000 secured bond. A Superior Court appearance is scheduled for August 17. 

43-year-old Gregory Allen McDaniel was arrested today (July 17) by authorities in Burke County. He’s charged with felony possession of schedule III controlled substance. Following the arrest, McDaniel was placed in jail under $10,000 secured bond. A court appearance is scheduled for Monday (July 20).

A man was killed after reportedly striking a guardrail in his truck in a wreck that occurred in Lincoln County near the Catawba County line this morning. According to a published report, Highway Patrol officials say the man was speeding in a pickup truck on U.S. 321 at mile marker 30 when he ran off the left side of the road. The driver reportedly overcorrected and ran off the right side of the road and collided with the guardrail. The report says the man was thrown from the truck and died at the scene. The victim has not been identified.

28-year-old Travis Xavier Thomas of NW Conley Place in Lenoir was arrested Thursday (July 16) by Lenoir Police Officers. He’s charged on bills of indictment with being an habitual felon, possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine, and possession of a firearm by a felon. Following the arrest, Thomas was detained in the Caldwell County Detention Center under $75,000 secured bond. He’s scheduled to appear in Superior Court August 31.

44-year-old Thomas Victor Rinehart of Lick Mountain Road in Hudson was arrested Wednesday (July 15) by Caldwell County Sheriff’s Officers. He’s charged with felony counts of breaking and entering, larceny, and possession of stolen property. Rinehart was confined in the Caldwell County Detention Center under $40,000 secured bond. He made his first court appearance Thursday (July 16).

The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will meet this upcoming Monday (July 20) in regular session. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton.

One of the items on the agenda deals with new jobs coming to Catawba County. The Board will consider formally approving an Economic Development Agreement between the County and Carolina Nonwovens LLC, which intends to construct, up-fit and/or equip a new 100,000 square foot facility in Maiden, and will invest a minimum of $13 million and create 62 new jobs over three years. 35 positions will move from Lincoln County.

Commissioners will also hold a public hearing on a request by Birdseye Renewable Energy to rezone 45 acres of an approximately 119 acre tract located at 2327 Mt. Olive Church Road from R-30 Residential to R-80-CD Conditional District specifically for a solar farm.

The Board will consider a budget ordinance and project agreement for a 2015 Urgent Repair Program Grant received by the County in the amount of $50,000 that will assist approximately eleven low-income households by providing energy efficiency improvements and minor structural repairs, and an agreement with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) for management of the grant. The Board will also consider accepting a 2015-2016 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Commerce Fellows Grant in the amount of $27,476.01, with the appropriate project budget ordinance and an administrative contract with the WPCOG in the amount of $2,500.

The Board will present a Distinguished Public Service Award to Susan Lee, who is retiring as Director of the Catawba County Parenting Network. And the Board will consider declaring the badges and service weapons of recently retired Sheriff’s Deputies Robert Pruette and Bob Riley as surplus and present those items to the Deputies.