St. Petersburg church fire ruled arson

| July 24, 2010

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A fire that charred a St. Petersburg church has been ruled arson, ABC Action News has learned.

Lt. Joel Granata of St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue told reporter Don Germaise, "It's definitely arson. We're still early in the investigation, that's all I can tell you, but it looks like arson."

Just before 6 a.m., someone in the neighborhood of the Stewart-Isom Memorial CME Church saw smoke coming from the sanctuary and called 911.

More than 50 firefighters showed up to battle the blaze, but wooden pews helped the flames spread quickly. Firefighters had to back out of the building and break the stained glass windows to let the heavy smoke escape.

For church members, the sanctuary represents the soul of their congregation.

"You never want anything to happen to the place in which you worship, because it's a symbol of the God you worship," Pastor Marvin Lue Jr. said.

The pastor just accepted another job with a church in Miami, but for the last year, he has led about 50 members in worship.

10-year-old Meoshia Dillon has grown up at the church. She sings in the kids' choir, and hoped her favorite building was not destroyed by an arsonist.

Lt. Granata said the sanctuary appears to be a total loss. Because of the recent change in leadership at the church, there is some question to the details of insurance coverage.

Anytime a fire happens at a church, state and federal authorities are called in to assist local agencies. Lt. Granata says he's confident the extra sets of eyes will help with the investigation.

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Category: Church Security

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