Church fire declared arson

| September 18, 2009

Stonewall — A fire which gutted Stonewall Church of Christ in May has been ruled as arson.

In an Origin and Cause report from the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal’s Office (OSFMO), combustible material in the church was set on fire by an unknown source of ignition, according to Judah Sheppard, OSFMO investigator.

“It has been ruled arson,” Sheppard said. “There is still an active investigation going on.”

Donald Hoover, minister of the church, said he feels the investigation has bogged down and no one cares.

“Our whole point is, man, as far as law enforcement, there’s been nothin’, not one thing,” Hoover said.

Not so, said Sheppard, who said investigators are still running down leads and people have been interviewed.

“What we could use is the public’s help from anyone having information,” Sheppard said. “All help will be appreciated.”

Stonewall Police Chief Jason Teel, who is assisting arson investigators said it takes time to do an arson investigation right.

“It’s an ongoing investigation,” Teel said. “It takes time. The church and church members are wanting to see progress, and I can understand that, but an arson investigation takes time.”

Sheppard said there are persons of interest in the case and further interviews are pending.

Teel said Sheppard and his supervisor will be coming to Stonewall to interview the persons of interest.

“From what I’ve been told by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, they’re just having a conflict in schedules and they just haven’t been able to get down and interview.”

Firefighters from Stonewall and Ada were called to the fire just before 3 a.m. May 30, 2009. Hoover said the blaze destroyed most of the interior and a new metal roof.

Hoover said the insurance payout was for what it would take to replace what was damaged and not what it will cost to bring the building up to current standards.

“The remodel will have to be up to state and federal code because it’s a public building,” Hoover said.

Hoover said although they do not have the total funds necessary, the clean up and remodel has begun.

“It’s going to cost more to rebuild it than it did to build it,” Hoover said. “We have about two-thirds of what’s necessary to rebuild it. It’ll take about one-third more.”

Hoover said since the fire, church services have been held at the Chickasaw Community Center in Stonewall.

“The Chickasaws have been real good to us,” Hoover said.

Hoover also said other area churches were very willing to help after the fire. Anyone with information about the fire can call the State Fire Marshal’s Office at 405-522-5005.

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Category: Church Security

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