Fire At Historic Balls Creek Campground Intentionally Set

The Latest (Posted October 3, 2020):

Investigators from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) determined the fire at Balls Creek Campground in Catawba County on September 29, 2019 was intentionally set, according to a news release.

Because of the historic and religious significance of Balls Creek Campground, a joint task force of local, state and federal authorities investigated the fire that destroyed 40 tents and damaged nine others.

The task force continues to request assistance from the public in the form of information, leads, and pictures or videos from the area on the evening of September 29th.  Anyone with information is asked to call the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office at 828-464-5241.

Read below for more details on the fire.

Original Story (Posted October 3, 2019):

NEWTON, N.C. — Authorities are still investigating the cause of a fire that destroyed dozens of structures at the Balls Creek Campground in Catawba on Sunday afternoon.

On Thursday, officials announced a search warrant has been obtained to investigate claims that Sunday’s fire was intentionally set as part of feud between students at Bandys High School and Maiden High School. Residents in the Bandy and Maiden communities believe this was the case, officials say, but at this time the allegation has been neither confirmed nor dismissed.

“The public is cautioned that this allegation is only one piece of the broader investigation which has many facets,” officials say. “As stated previously, the task force considers this fire to be suspicious and the cause is currently undetermined.”

“Allegations reported today in the media are being investigated by my office, the Fire Marshal’s Office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation,” says Catawba County Sheriff Don Brown. “All leads are being investigated. Several students from both Bandys and Maiden High schools have been questioned and deemed to have no involvement. To date none of these leads or allegations have been substantiated. It is important that our communities not draw conclusions based on allegations or any investigative efforts we are undertaking.”

Catawba County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Matthew Stover released the following statement on the investigation and allegation:

“I have received questions and read media statements which allege there was an incident or altercation between students at the Maiden – Bandys High School football game this past Friday night. To my knowledge, no such incident or altercation occurred between Maiden and Bandy students at the football game. I have also received questions and seen media statements alleging that the recent Balls Creek Camp Ground fire was intentionally set in retaliation for an incident at the football game. The cause of the fire at Balls Creek Camp Ground is being investigated thoroughly by law enforcement and Catawba County Schools has no information regarding any evidence that has been collected relating to the fire.”

Officials say multiple agencies responded to the fire that began around 9:40 p.m. on Sunday, September 29th.  Crews were finally able to extinguish the fire at about 1:20 a.m. Monday morning.

The Catawba County Fire Marshal’s Office says that 40 out of 295 cabins were destroyed at the campground and nine others were damaged.

A joint task force of local, state, and federal agencies, including the SBI and ATF, are handling the investigation due to the historical and religious significance of Balls Creek Campground.

Authorities say Buffalo Shoals Road is temporarily closed between Caldwell Road and West Bandys Cross Road due to the ongoing fire investigation.

Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to contact the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office at 828-464-5241.