ATF outlines investigation of Wills Point church fire

| February 6, 2010

WILLS POINT (KYTX) – Similarities are starting to appear in the string of church fires around East Texas. Those similarities are being determined by more than 40 ATF agents from across the country who assembled in Wills Point today.

They're not commenting on all the similarities just yet, but they did say that it appears someone broke into Russell Memorial United Methodist Church in the early morning hours – just as someone broke into the back door of a Lindale church last month around the same time and set that church on fire. But, while there are similarities, there are also differences, and that's making the investigation harder.

ATF agents snapped pictures from the ground, and ventured to the highest heights, looking for burn patterns that indicate where the blaze started.

"We interview the firefighters, because they were the first ones on the scene."

Special agent Tom Crowley says it appears that someone broke into the church early Thursday morning – similar to some other East Texas church fires.

"There's a lot of similarities and some differences. The two in Tyler were set at 6:30 pm. This one was 5:30am, the one in Lindale was 7:30am," said agent Crowley.

While agents and investigators search for clues, they're joined by some of the congregation.

"One of our church members noticed there are 5 crosses," said church member Daniel Turner.

Images of hope stand on top of the charred sanctuary of Russell Memorial. Five wooden crosses, shaped by Thursday's fire.

"When they do this…they think it's going to cause destruction among the congregation. But it actually brings us together," said Turner.

Crowley says it will take a few days to determine if the Wills Point church fire is arson. Questions still remain if it's the same person or persons responsible for the fire.

"That would be speculation, but we are looking at different we stated there are similarities with these fires so that's what we are looking at."

Investigators are becoming increasingly concerned about the fires and have since set up an East Texas church fires task force.

The committee is manning phone lines around the clock in hopes a tip will lead to the persons responsible for the fires.

If you have any information, you're urged to call the east Texas church fire task force at 903-939-6169 or 903-939-6172 or the ATF at 1-888-ATF-FIRE.

A $10,000 reward is being for offered for information leading to an arrest.

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Category: Church Security

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