ATF Investigates Seven Church Fires

| January 19, 2010

State fire officials are working with U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local agencies to investigate seven suspicious church fires in east Texas since the beginning of the year.

Two of the fires happened this weekend in Tyler, three in Athens, one in Canton and another in Martin's Mill.

Police say a 911 call Sunday night about a fire led emergency responders to First Church of Christ, Scientist. The fire was brought under control around 8 p.m. Sunday. No damage estimate was immediately available.

A fire Saturday night destroyed much of Tyland Baptist Church also in Tyler. Authorities believe the fire started in the sanctuary.

No injuries were reported in either blaze.

According to KETK-TV, Tyler fire officials think the string of church fires is suspicious. Tyler police are urging ministers and congregations to report any suspicious activity.

Meanwhile, suspected arson fires devastated two churches last Monday night in Athens, about 65 miles southeast of Dallas.

Athens Fire Chief John McQueary said that multiple ignition points were found in both the Lake Athens Baptist Church and the Grace Community Church.

Arson also is suspected in a fire that decimated the Faith Church in Athens on Jan. 1.

Fires also have destroyed the Little Hope Baptist Church in Canton and struck a church in Martin's Mill since Near Year's Day. Both are within 25 miles or less of Athens.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the state fire marshal's office are helping with the investigations in all of the fires.

The ATF is offering a $5,000 reward for information on the church fires in Tyler according to KETK.

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Category: Church Security