Balls Creek Campground "is believed to be one of the largest religious campgrounds in the southern United States."

By Meghan Overdeep
October 01, 2019
Twitter/Catawba Co. Emergency Services

Sad news out of western North Carolina this week. A massive fire destroyed more than three dozen structures at a beloved 166-year-old religious campground in Catawba County Sunday night.

A fire at the historic Balls Creek Campground along Buffalo Shoals Road reportedly broke out around 9:30 p.m. With the efforts of more than 100 firefighters from 16 area fire departments, the fire was finally out around 2 a.m.

"Not an easy thing to do, to get a fire like this under control, and they did it," Bob Drum, trustee for Balls Creek Campground, told WBTV.

Officials said that 40 of the 295 cabins were destroyed. Another nine cabins, or "tents," sustained some damage.

Cabins at Balls Creek are referred to as tents, but they are built like wooden row houses and share a common wall.

The oldest section of the camp was established in the 1850s. According to the campground's Facebook page, it is "believed to be one of the largest religious campgrounds in the southern United States." It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Fortunately, most families only gather at the site for two weeks in August, so none of the tents were occupied when the fire broke out.

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Neighbors told WSOCTV they are devastated to see such a historic place go up in flames.

"It's just, it's devastating to me, being someone that went and hung out there from probably seven to 18 years old, so, my heart breaks," said neighbor Tandy Walker.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

"Joint local, state and federal task force (is) investigating cause of fire," Catawba County Emergency Management said on Twitter. "Hearts are heavy today with the loss at this special place!"