BETHEL — A funeral home sustained heavy damage from a fire on the second floor and spread to the rear of the building, a local fire chief said Tuesday.

The fire took place at the Walker Funeral Home Ayres Chapel location, which is nestled between West Washington and James streets.

More than two dozen fire crews from Bethel, Carolina Township and Staton House Fire Departments responded to the blaze about 11 p.m.

“The first truck arrived on scene with heavy smoke and flames showing,” Bethel Fire Chief Joe Peel said. “We established an attack and stayed on scene until roughly 3:30 this morning.”

It took about three hours to get the fire under control and Peel said most of the fire had been knocked down by 1:30 or 2 a.m.

Peel said crews cleared the scene about 6 a.m. and returned briefly after some hot spots flared up.

Peel said the fire started at the top of the stairs and spread to a single-story section located near the back of the funeral home, which is housed in a structure that is over 100 years old.

“It was very old construction and it’s been added on to over the years, which made it a little more difficult to battle the blaze because of the way things were arranged in the funeral home,” Peel said.

Firefighters found hot water heaters along with a sitting room and a bedroom upstairs, Peel said.

The fire is not considered suspicious but the cause remains under investigation, he said.

The funeral home was empty at the time of the fire; Peel said he believes the structure can be salvaged.

Contact Tyler Stocks at or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @StocksGDR.