Prominent black South Carolina church burns; feds investigating

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Firefighters were trying Tuesday night to extinguish a blaze at a prominent black church in South Carolina.

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal church in Williamsburg County caught fire Tuesday night.

The church was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan in 1995, but Keel says it is too early to say what the cause of Tuesday night's blaze is. He said there were thunderstorms with frequent lightning in the area.

Keel says officials at the scene don't' think anyone was inside when the fire started.

Williamsburg County Councilman Eddie Woods Jr. drove to the scene and says the blaze was so intense people were being kept several hundred yards away.

Federal authorities are investigating several recent fires at predominantly black churches, though the blazes do not appear to be related.