Fire damages another East Texas church

| February 4, 2010

WILLS POINT — The seventh church fire this year in east Texas destroyed the sanctuary of Russell Memorial United Methodist Church in Wills Point.

Van Zandt County Fire Marshal Chuck Allen told The Associated Press that no injuries were were reported in Thursday morning's blaze. Allen says the cause of the fire is being investigated. He says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been summoned to Wills Point, about 50 miles east of Dallas.

ATF has said six church fires since January 1 in east Texas are blamed on arson. It is setting up a hotline (888-ATF-FIRE) and is offering $5,000 to $10,000 for any information leading to the arrest of those involved.

Fire Marshal Allen, who was baptized in the Wills Point church, said the fire continued burning nearly three hours after it was reported and "this building's a total loss."

Members of the congregation watched the fire destroy their sanctuary all but burn to the ground, from the inside out.

"I am sad for the people who did this. It breaks my heart that they would chose this. But we are a very strong church family. We are very blessed, and we're going to be OK," said Nancy McDonald.

Church services will be held at the nearby Fellowship Hall, which is two years old and survived the fire.

A Van Zandt County Sheriff's Office dispatches told AP that the fire was reported at 5:23 a.m. Thursday.

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Category: Church Security

  • CSI


    UPDATE 03:40PM 02/04/10: According to ATF investigator, Tom Crowly, Russell Memorial United Methodist Church in Wills Point had been broken into this morning, and the fire at the church has been ruled as suspicious. Investigators say they are just now able to begin sifting through the debris and don't yet know if accelerants were used in the fire. They say it could take 2-3 days to determine if the fire was a result of arson.