Police are investigating a fire that destroyed a church built in 1877. The old Church of Crest Nazarene, located at 329 Crest Lane, burned to the ground Sunday night, Sept. 16. The only thing left standing was the back wall of a block dining hall added to the church in 1950.
It is not known exactly when the church closed, but the property is listed in the Upson County Tax Office as belonging to Tony Stewart, who lives next door at 229 Crest Lane.
Upson County Sheriff’s Deputy James Hollis responded to the fire call Sunday night. At the scene, he talked to Justin Yusef Luckey, who said he was living in the dining hall. According to Hollis’ report, Luckey said he and his girlfriend were cooking ribs on the stove when grease caught fire and spread.
While he was talking with Luckey, Hollis received a call from UCSO Sgt. Rodney Ozley, advising him that Richard Guy suffered burns at the location when he attempted to light a kerosene lamp.
Suspecting there was more to the fire that what was being said, Hollis advised the on scene fire commander that there was the possibility of a meth lab fire at the church.
Hollis contacted Sgt. Heath Eppinger of the Narcotics Task Force and the on-call UCSO investigator, Jeff Taylor. Both came to the scene, but were unable to inspect the building due to the fire.
Hollis also talked to Stewart, who said he had no insurance on the church property. When asked what he had in the property, Stewart said he had a refrigerator, propane stove, books, and his grandchild’s toys.
Units from Thurston, Rock Hill, Lincoln Park, Yatesville and Northside volunteer fire departments responded to the fire, along with Upson EMS.
After the fire was brought under control, Luckey could not be found for further questioning. Guy was airlifted to the Augusta Burn Center. His condition is not known. The investigation into the fire is ongoing.