compiled by Dee Finney

updated 3-8-06

Fire at Manhattan church
December 18, 2001 Posted: 8:05 AM EST (1305 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A five-alarm fire erupted at the Cathedral of St. John's the Divine Tuesday morning, the New York Fire Department said.

"It's roaring," a department spokesman said.

There were no reports of any injuries or deaths.

The medieval-style Episcopal cathedral, on Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street, was built in the late 19th century.

Fire Burns at St. John the Divine
By ALAN CLENDENNING, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Fire broke out Tuesday morning at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, with black smoke billowing 40 feet high from the Episcopal church that has been under construction for more than a century.

Police said it appeared that part of the roof of the cathedral had caved in. The cathedral is believed to be the largest in the country.

Fire crews were called to the scene at about 7 a.m. as smoke poured from a gift shop in the rear of the church and scores of onlookers stood by.

``There were clouds of black smoke 40 feet high,'' said mechanic Juan Cruz, who saw the fire on his way to work at Columbia University. ``The winds were blowing it all over the place.''

There was no word on the extent of the damage. No injuries were reported.

The cathedral is on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the Morningside Heights neighborhood. The Encyclopedia of New York City lists the church as the largest in the United States.

The first stone was laid in 1892, but construction has never been completed, and work continues to this day.

The church is the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and the seat of its bishop.


Tuesday December 18 9:40 AM ET
Fire Rages in Landmark New York Cathedral
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A fierce fire raged through New York's St. John the Divine cathedral, one of the world's largest, early on Tuesday morning but there were no reports of casualties.

``It broke out in the gift shop. It's very serious. But that's all I know right now,'' New York Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen told Reuters. About 200 firefighters and 48 units were fighting the raging blaze.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

``We have no reported injuries so far,'' Von Essen said.

Smoke filled the entire church and was billowing out of the massive front doors of the Episcopal cathedral, which is expected to be the world's largest when it is finished. Parts of the cathedral's roof were also in flames.

``The first alarm came in at 6:42 a.m. and we were here three or four minutes later,'' said firefighter Gary Grillo, with Engine Company 37. Officials described the fire as a ``five alarm'' blaze, the most serious category of fire.

The fire is in the general vicinity of the huge wooden pipe organ but the condition of the organ was unknown.

The gift shop is housed in an unfinished structure and firefighters expressed concern about its stability.

Construction of the cathedral, located at 112th Street in Manhattan's upper west side, began in 1892 and it is still being built.

The cathedral is about two-thirds complete. The American Institute of Architects says that ``were St. John the Divine to be completed, it would be the world's largest cathedral.''

Nicholas Hurwitz, 12, a student at the Cathedral School next door to the church, said, ``This place is so meaningful to me. I've been running around here and growing up here since I was born. I was baptized here.''
On the Net:

Monday December 17 04:05 PM EST
Fire Destroys 75-Year-Old Church
St. Mary's Star of the Sea Catholic Church, in the 1000 block of West Sixth Street, was destroyed by fire Sunday night.

Hundreds of parishioners helplessly stood by and watched the historic 75-year-old church burn.

Councilman Carlos Martinez, who has attended the church for 35 years, said it was hard to watch the church burn.

"It's a terrible thing to witness when you have attended church here all your life," Martinez told The Facts newspaper as he watched firefighters battle the blaze. "I'm sure all the other people here feel the same."

The blaze started about 8:30 p.m. When firefighters arrived, flames were seen in the building attached to the church that houses offices and classrooms, said Freeport Fire Chief John Stanford.

Firefighters from Freeport, Surfside, Clute, Lake Jackson, Richwood, Jones Creek and Angleton battled the blaze in heavy rains late into the night.

Shortly after 10:30 p.m., the church's roof collapsed causing the ground to vibrate.

The cause of the fire was not known. An investigation is under way.

Copyright © 2001 Yahoo! and KPRC
All rights reserved.

Friday December 14 5:43 PM ET
Teens Arrested for Sikh Temple Fire

OSWEGO, N.Y. (AP) - Three teen-agers were arrested Friday and charged with setting a fire that destroyed a Sikh temple.

All three youths, ages 18 and 19, admitted involvement in the blaze Nov. 18 and said they had been drinking, Sheriff Reuel Todd said.

The Gobind Sadan House of Worship was housed in a converted farmhouse in Palermo, about 25 miles north of Syracuse.

Investigators said they were considering the fire a possible hate crime, which could lead to stiffer penalties under a law enacted last year.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Sikhs have been mistaken for Arabs or Muslims because they wear turbans and have beards. Around the country, Sikhs have been harassed and attacked, and at least one was killed.

December 18, 2001

Church Members Say Fire Was Warning
South-Central: Activists at KRST Unity Center believe arsonist was trying to silence them.


Someone crept to the door of a little church in South-Central Los Angeles this fall, doused some rags with flammable liquid and tried to burn it down.

The KRST Unity Center of African Spirituality, a 200-member church known for its criticism of police brutality and support for leftist causes, was saved from serious damage only because a passerby saw the flames and got help.

The Los Angeles Fire Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating. But many supporters of the congregation believe that while they don't know exactly who set the fire early on Oct. 1, they do know why: to silence them and their minister. A few church members said the arson attempt could have been random or vandalism by neighborhood youths. But many saw it as a warning against continued activism. Despite a lack of evidence, many in the church believe authorities were involved.

"I'm not sitting here blaming anyone specifically," said the Rev. Richard Byrd, the church's minister. "I don't have my teeth clenched and my fist balled up in the air. But when you're speaking on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal [the death row inmate in Pennsylvania convicted of murdering a police officer], who is the natural constituency that wants to stop you? The authorities. Not all, but some."

If anything, members said, the fire has brought new energy to the church.

Distrust of authorities and church burnings resonate in black neighborhoods, calling to mind both the 1960s arson fires and the spate of burnings in the 1990s that left dozens of black churches in ashes.

A Times poll taken in spring 2000 found that African Americans and Latinos are far less surprised than whites by allegations of police misconduct. According to the poll, 83% of blacks and 72% of Latinos believe officers commonly commit acts of brutality, while that view was shared by only 43% of white respondents.

That so many people at the church believe that police or other government officials could be involved in setting the fire illustrates the tension with law enforcement in segments of the African American community, a hostility that waxes and wanes but never disappears.

Los Angeles Police Department officials find the idea of law enforcement involvement in the arson stunning.

But, said LAPD spokesman Sgt. John Pasqariello, "if the church members or somebody says the police did it, they've got to bring it forward to us and we'll thoroughly investigate any allegations of police misconduct of any kind."

Far from overt anger, there is a sense of business as usual among church members, as if retaliation for pursuing a social agenda is to be expected.

"The point here isn't whether law enforcement was involved or not," said Frank Gilliam, a UCLA professor of political science and director of the school's Center for Communications and Community. "The point is that the suspect legitimacy of legal authorities in minority communities is a problem that needs to be addressed."

The tension has deep historical roots, he said. "If you look at many of the race riots in the 20th century, whether Chicago in 1919 or the urban riots of 1967 or Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo, all of these cases started in a breakdown in relationships between police and minority communities."

It is a problem well-known to law enforcement. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has asked UCLA's Center for Communications to study the root causes of distrust in minority communities, hold public forums and train its top officers. The project is on hold for lack of funding.

Many living in L.A's black and Latino neighborhoods were not surprised by a report this fall by the LAPD's court-appointed monitor, Michael Cherkasky. He said some officers see their patrol areas as "enemy territory."

The KRST Unity Center of African Spirituality is a humble dwelling but well-known among activists seeking to defend neighborhoods against police misconduct. Byrd, also called Meri Ka Ra, is often at the side of families whose relatives have been killed by police.

Worshipers, supporters and community activists gathered Sunday at the church for a celebration. The LAPD's Rampart scandal and the FBI's secret counterintelligence program were held up as examples of abuse by authorities, lending credence to their suspicions.

"I can't afford to waste my energy on anger," Byrd said Sunday. "If we allowed anger to overtake us, we would be useless. We're not bowing our heads and backing away. We're determined not to stop doing what we're doing. We have a responsibility here."

Ten years ago, Byrd took a formerly mainstream church down a new path. He infused his church with African traditions: The church teaches reverence for elders--the oldest member of the congregation begins the service. The altar is decked with colorful kente cloth, and sermons are interspersed with drumming and storytelling. Worship services include the pouring of libations to ancestors. Byrd also charted a course of edgy social activism.

Over the years, many have left.

"Churchgoing folks aren't usually activists, and activists aren't usually churchgoing folks," Byrd said with a laugh. "That pretty much got rid of everybody."

The gathering Sunday, however, united both. Regular worshipers, some in traditional Sunday best and others in colorful African clothes, joined members of an anti-police brutality group called the October 22nd Coalition, advocates of reparations for slavery and opponents of globalization and International Monetary Fund policies. The centerpiece of the program was a video of October 22nd Coalition marches and demonstrations, showing clashes with police. Byrd called for people to stand up for their rights and for the families of people shot by police to recount their suffering.

"Our hearts were so heavy that people would dare to attack this church," said Xochitz Johnson of the October 22nd Coalition's youth student network.

"The anger and rage that built up gave us a determination to build a wall between whoever wants to destroy this church and you," she told Byrd. "Before they attack this church again they'll have to go through us."

Fire Damages School And Church

POSTED: 10:52 a.m. EST October 31, 2001
UPDATED: 12:31 p.m. EST October 31, 2001

STOVERTOWN, Pa. -- Fire investigators told News 8 that a fire at a church and adjoining school in York County early Wednesday morning may have been intentionally set.

The fire at Old Paths Baptist Church, north of Stoverstown, in North Codorus Township was originally thought to have started in the kitchen. Fire investigators said that they now think the fire may have started in multiple places.

The school was closed Wednesday because of fire damage, while the church sustained smoke damage.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Copyright 2001 by All rights reserved.

Release Date: 21 September 2001
Contact: Joseph Cordero
713.526.2585, ext. 208
or Christine Han
713-526-2585, ext. 231

HOUSTON, TX – On the evening of Thursday, September 13, 2001, a fire broke out at the mobile worship facility of the First Lao Presbyterian Church. The Laotian church, which had been sharing space with the Advent Presbyterian Church in Houston, had recently acquired a 57’x12’ trailer to use for worship and classroom space. Approximately one-half of the trailer’s interior sustained fire and water damage.

The congregation had no insurance coverage for the trailer and is seeking help in rebuilding their worship and educational facilities. The presbytery’s Outreach Ministries is forwarding this information to all New Covenant churches in hopes of assembling a mission team of volunteers to help repair the damage.

The repairs require a variety of skilled individuals, including a project manager and those skilled in basic carpentry, drywall, electrical installation, etc. Donations to the presbytery’s Disaster Assistance Fund can be used to pay for the cost of material.

Web Editor: Martha Kelly
Email Us:
Phone: 713.526.2585 or toll-free 1.800.444.1278
Fax: 713.526.8814
© 2001 Presbytery of New Covenant, 1110 Lovett Blvd., Houston, TX 77006

Fayetteville Church Fire Report Recommends Changes
Results Of Fire Investigation Released Wednesday

POSTED: 12:49 a.m. CST November 1, 2001

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Fayetteville fire department will likely make some changes after a report released Wednesday.

Results of church fire investigation released

The department was investigated after a church fire last December, Your Hometown News reports.

The fire destroyed the First Nazarene Church and left four firefighters injured after its roof collapsed.

The report recommends that the department keep firefighters better trained and have them become better informed with city buildings. It also recommends update the department's standard operating procedures.
Copyright 2001 by All rights reserved.

December 18, 2001

Gunmen open fire in church, killing 16

Women mourn relatives at a makeshift morgue in Behawalpur, Pakistan, where masked gunmen killed at least 16 Christian worshipers during church services Sunday. (Reuters photo by Asim Tanvir)

October 28, 2001

By Uli Schmetzer
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published October 29, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Masked gunmen burst into a Christian church service in central Punjab province Sunday and sprayed the congregation with gunfire from assault rifles. Among the at least 16 people killed were a clergyman and four children.

The attack occurred in Behawalpur, headquarters of an extremist Islamic group. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, condemned the massacre and said he saw "the hand of terrorists" behind the action.

"The method used and the inhuman tactics clearly indicate involvement of trained terrorists," Musharraf said in a statement, vowing to track down the

It was unclear whether the attack was related to widespread protests sparked by the 3-week-old U.S.-led bombing campaign against Afghanistan or Musharraf's decision to allow American forces to be deployed in Pakistan. Whatever the reason, the shootings marked the worst violence since protests began and fueled fears that militant groups had switched to terrorist tactics.

In Quetta, a southwestern city near the Afghanistan border, a bomb hidden under a bus seat exploded and killed three passengers and injured 25. Elsewhere, protesters blocked Pakistan's main highway to China and occupied an air strip, contending that U.S. forces might use it for missions in Afghanistan.

In Pakistan, many Muslims are members of the Pashtun ethnic group and support the Taliban government, which is dominated by Pashtuns. In recent days, thousands of armed men and boys have gathered in northwestern Pakistan, saying they planned to cross the border and join Taliban troops in Afghanistan.

"This is what can happen when people become frustrated because their government will not listen to public opinion," warned Shavez Khan, a Muslim cleric.

According to officials, the six gunmen arrived on motorcycles just before the 9 a.m. service at St. Dominic's Roman Catholic Church in Behawalpur and fatally shot a police officer on the church's steps. While two gunmen stayed outside, the others stormed the church, shouting "Allah Akbar," or "God is Great," and firing into groups of horrified worshipers for two minutes, said witnesses.

Survivors described how people tried to hide under the pews. Some begged for mercy, others cried but the gunmen kept on firing. Many worshipers managed to escape through a side door.

Shamoon Masih, 34, who was shot in the leg and the arm, said the gunmen fired at random.

"They had no mercy for the children. They had no mercy for the women," Masih said by telephone. "They could see that small children were being hit by bullets, but they kept firing."

The dead included four women, four children under age 12 and a clergyman identified as Father Emmanuel.

Though the massacre occurred at a Catholic church, most of the victims were Protestants attending services because they did not have their own building. Christians make up less than 5 percent of Pakistan's population.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, police were posted outside all Christian churches as a deterrent. But the one-man guard was not reinforced at St. Dominic's on Sunday, even though the local Christian community complained they had received threats in recent days.

Pakistani officials ordered increased security at Christian churches across the country after the massacre.

Musharraf, sensitive to growing dissent and factions in his military that want Pakistan to withdraw from the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition, appeared on prime-time television to denounce the attacks.

Earlier Sunday, he told visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that the Afghan campaign should be "short and targeted and only on military objectives."

He also told his guest that "targeting more accurately will certainly avoid collateral damage," the military euphemism for loss of civilian life.

Copyright © 2001, Chicago Tribune

5 Southern Baptist churches in Ala. hit by fires

Local officials suspect arson; 2 churches burned to the ground


A charred wall was all that was left Friday of the Rehobeth Baptist Church in Randolph, Ala., after a fire that appears to be arson.
Pastor's account
Feb. 3: The Rev. David Hand tells MSNBC that the fire at his church appears to be arson.


Updated: 11:42 a.m. ET Feb. 3, 2006

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Five Southern Baptist churches near Birmingham, Ala., were destroyed or damaged by fire overnight.

The Ashby Baptist Church in Brierfield and Rehobeth Baptist Church in Randolph both burned to the ground.

Jim Parker, a member of the Ashby Baptist Church, told WBRC television in Birmingham that he understood the fire began near the pulpit and that the fires at other churches had a similar pattern.

There were two minor injuries reported among firefighters tackling the blazes.

WVTM reporter Debra Des Vignes told MSNBC that authorities believe all the fires were deliberately set.

All within 5 miles
The pastor of one church also told MSNBC that two fires there appeared to be an arson. The Rev. David Hand of the Old Union Baptist Church said part of the church was set on fire as was an  American flag. Flower pots were also smashed to the ground, he said.

The five churches are all within five miles of one another, he added.

A sixth fire damaged another church late Thursday afternoon, but an state insurance investigator said it might not have been arson.

No arrests had been made Friday morning.

In 1996, race was a factor in arsons that damaged rural black churches in Alabama and elsewhere. But the fires overnight hit churches that were both predominantly black and predominantly white.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Posted: 2/6/06

Arson suspected in Alabama church fires

By Hannah Elliott & Robert Marus

Associated Baptist Press

CENTREVILLE, Ala. (ABP)—Federal officials suspect arson in a series of fires that damaged or destroyed five small Baptist churches in rural Bibb County, Ala., the night of Feb. 2-3.

In addition, a sixth church in neighboring Chilton County burned the same night, but church representatives said it may have been due to an accident.

Investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms joined state and local authorities the morning of Feb. 3 to determine the cause of fires that “were set as fast as they could drive from one location to the next,” Bibb County Deputy Sheriff Kenneth Weems told the Associated Press.

The five Bibb County churches were all located near U.S. Highway 82 and the blazes began within about three hours of each other, news reports said. The area is located about 50 miles southwest of Birmingham.

The fires completely destroyed Ashby Baptist Church in Brierfield, Rehobeth Baptist Church in Randolph and Pleasant Sabine Baptist Church near Centreville. The other two churches, Old Union Baptist in Brierfield and Antioch Baptist in Antioch, sustained damage but escaped complete destruction.

All of the churches but Pleasant Sabine belonged to the Southern Baptist Convention, the statewide Alabama Baptist Convention and the local Bibb County Baptist Association.

No one was injured in any of the fires. But they called to mind a rash of arsons—many of them racially motivated—that destroyed dozens of African-American churches across the South in the late 1990s. Several of those crimes remain unsolved.

Four of the Bibb County churches were home to predominantly white congregations, while the Pleasant Sabine church is historically African-American.

David Hand, pastor of Old Union Baptist Church, said the community remains in disbelief. “Our congregation is pretty upset, but we are also thankful, because others lost a lot more than we did,” he said.

Hand said Old Union’s damage resulted from two separate fires. The damaged areas include the pulpit, communion table, the American flag and the carpeting surrounding those areas.

The suspected arsonists also kicked in the back door according to Hand—which officials said was a common thread between several of the fires.

“There is a lot of sadness around the area, but we are all pulling together,” he said.

Alabama Baptist Convention Executive Director Rick Lance released a statement saying the group was responding in multiple ways to the fires.

“We’re working with the leadership of the Bibb Baptist Association to provide prayer support and damage assessment for these churches,” he said. “As quickly as possible, we anticipate having mobile chapels available for use by the two churches whose facilities were destroyed.

He also said the state convention would provide “appropriate financial assistance” to the convention-affiliated churches damaged. All of the churches have small congregations and budgets.

As of press time, police had made no arrests nor released the names of any suspects. Alabama lawmakers have offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonists. 

News of religion, faith, missions, Bible study and Christian ministry among Texas Baptist churches, in the BGCT, the Southern Baptist Convention ( SBC ) and around the world.The Alabama Baptist contributed to this story

Fires burn 4 more Alabama churches

'They had set the pulpit on fire and went out the front door'

Tuesday, February 7, 2006; Posted: 3:38 p.m. EST (20:38 GMT)
A firefighter douses the smoldering remains of Morning
 Star Missionary Baptist Church.

BOLIGEE, Alabama (AP) -- Fires damaged or destroyed four more Baptist churches across the Alabama countryside Tuesday, less than a week after a string of five blazes that were ruled arson.

Church member Johnny Archibald said smoke was pouring from Morning Star Baptist when he arrived around daybreak at the church in Boligee.

"They had kicked the door in," he said. "Evidently they had set the pulpit on fire and went out the front door."

Tuesday's fires took place at churches off rural roads, about 10 to 20 miles apart. They were in a cluster of three counties, about 60 miles from the Bibb County area where the five other churches were burned early Friday.

Ragan Ingram, a spokesman for the state insurance agency that oversees fire investigations, said it was too soon to say if there was any link between the two sets of fires. "Obviously we're going to investigate these as suspected arsons," he said.

He said investigators were pursuing several leads in last week's fires, but "the leads haven't led us to a specific suspect or a motive."

Morning Star Baptist was burned down to its foundation Tuesday, leaving only the front steps and handrail still standing. Another church was destroyed, and the other two were damaged. In the Bibb County fires, three churches were destroyed and two damaged.

Ingram said there have been 59 church fires in Alabama in the past five years, including the nine reported in the past four days, and 19 were ruled arsons.

The FBI said it is looking into whether the Bibb County fires were civil rights violations under laws covering attacks on religious property. State and federal rewards totaling $10,000 have been offered.

The nine churches that burned included both white and black congregations.

Archibald said the side door of Morning Star Baptist had a footprint on it, and he and another man used an ax to remove the door for potential use as evidence. At least two of the Bibb County churches also had kicked-in doors, church members said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Arson suspected in Minnedosa church fire
Last Updated Feb 13 2006 05:05 PM CST
CBC News
The congregation of the Minnedosa United Church is struggling to deal with a fire that destroyed their 105-year-old church building early Sunday morning.

The building was central to the community of Minnedosa, and was used as a meeting place for people of many faiths. It was also home to a nursery school and a food bank.

"It is a place that, for 105 years, has had weddings and baptisms, and funerals, and we have many people who are members of our congregation whose families helped build that building," said Rev. Shawn Ankenmann.

"It was extraordinary. It had extensive renovations and additions over the years. It had some of the most beautiful stained glass windows I've seen in my career, and acoustically, it was one of the most superb spaces around."

Three people – a 21-year-old Brandon man, a 19-year-old Brandon woman and a 20-year-old Minnedosa man – appeared in a Brandon court Monday morning, charged with arson in connection with the fire.

Ankenmann said he and his congregation are devastated by the loss, and found it especially hard to deal with the idea that the fire may have been deliberately set.

"Voices were raised that we need to remember the message of forgiveness that is so much a part of who we are as a church, and there was agreement," he said.
Firefighters survey the damage to the church [Photo: Shawn Willis]

Firefighters survey the damage to the church [Photo: Shawn Willis]

"It's hard, and it hurts so bad. But obviously this is someone who needs help, and I hope they get it, personally. I hope they never inflict this kind of hurt on a community, ever."

While most of the church building was levelled, Ankenmann says the church centre at the back of the building is still standing, and the offices were relatively unscathed.

However, almost 1,000 kilograms of food raised during a food-bank fundraiser in December was destroyed in the blaze.

The congregation of Minnedosa United met for services Sunday in the basement of Minnedosa's Catholic Church. United Church officials say they plan to rebuild.

Church Fire Investigation
Feb 13, 2006, 05:28 PM PST

Investigators are closing in on the suspects in the Alabama Church fires. Late monday evening, the Alabama Chistian coalition got involved. The group has joined the Governor and Alfa Insurance and has issued its own ten-thousand dollar reward. On Saturday, the tenth church went up in flames. Beaverton Freewill Baptist Church was set on fire just after four that afternoon. An alarm alerted authorities, but the damage was extensive. So are authorities any closer to catching the arsonists? They are not saying. But they are asking the aronists to contact them. < /p> < p> The ATF has put out an appeal to the arsonists. They want to speak directly to the fire starters. (())authorities think the pair are trying to send a message with their crimes. They're looking for two white males in their twenties, who are probably fromAlabama and are driving a dark s-u-v. Profilers believe the arsonists are more than partners in crime.

They think they are friends.  Investigators say they do have witnesses and feel this case can be solved. Keith Bryars, Assitant FBI Special Agen in charge says, "I can assure you the FBI is pouring in all available resources to find the people that are resposible for this." 

Officials did recieve an anonymous call in Chilton County today. Somone said they spotted a dark s-u-v near a church. They have not found that vehicle nor verified the authenticity of the call. Authorities are cautious of these s-u-v sightings.  They say they learned a lesson after the sniper attacks when everyone feared white panel vans in D.C.

The ATF has set up a phone number and e-mail address just for the arsonists.
The phone number is 205-343-9531. The e-mail address is talk with us at cox-dot-net.
That's only for the arsonists. Witnesses are asked to call the State Fire Marshal's Arson Hotline at 1-800-654-0775.

Latest church fire affects five generations
Feb 13, 2006, 11:50 AM PST

A tenth baptist church was nearly burned to the ground over the weekend.

It happened in the small community of Beaverton in Lamar County.

FBI agents are still searching for clues that will lead them to suspects.

The church has been in one man's family for five generations, from his grandfather to his grandson.

Billy Sizemore's truck has been parked near the Beaverton Freewill Baptist church since early Monday morning.

Back in the fifties, his grandfather donated the land to build the church.

After an arsonist set fire to the Baptist church Saturday afternoon, not a whole lot remains; a charred piano, what's left of a songbook and scorched pews.

You can still see pennies scattered on the ground. They were for a fundraiser the youth group had just started.

Sizemore says more younger members were becoming involved in the church and this year the group was getting off to a promising start.

Sizemore says about 40 members made up the congregation each Sunday. He and many others are asking questions as to why someone would commit such a hateful act.

"Most people if they commit a crime they're committing a crime for gain financially, but no one gets a financial gain burning down a church and i don't understand that," says Sizemore.

Sizemore says nothing was stolen from the church and it appears the suspects did not enter inside.

We spoke with the state fire marshal who tells us it looks like the fire started in the front of the church.

Profilers believe the arsonists to be two white men in their 20s and 30s, who know each other very well.

A building fund has been set up at the First State Bank in Beaverton.

Members say they hope to rebuild in the nearby area, perhaps closer to the highway.

Two More Suspicious Ala. Church Fires
Posted: 2/20/2006 6:01:13 AM

United Press International

Federal officials say the latest Alabama church fire doesn't resemble the methods of 10 recent arsons set in churches across the state.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said someone threw an incendiary device at a Church of God in Glencoe, Ala., Sunday morning and caused minor damage to the outside of the building. A church member found the fire early enough to stop extensive damage.

The ATF is investigating 10 other fires set in Baptist churches throughout central and western Alabama. Half have been at African-American churches the other half white.

The agency is calling a Friday night fire at a Christian business warehouse arson as well and is investigating a possible intentional blaze at a Methodist church on the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.

Mystery of Alabama Church Fires Persists Despite Federal Investigation

By Mary Silver
Epoch Times Atlanta Staff
Feb 19, 2006

A gathering of rights groups including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) assembled on Friday to appeal for more help from the federal government in solving the recent burning of several Alabama churches. The SCLC, co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is calling for federal response similar to the 1996 task force set up by then-president Bill Clinton.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has assigned more than 50 agents, including accelerant detection dogs, to investigate the recent suspicious spate of Alabama church fires. It is widely suspected that the fires were the work of arsonists.

The ATF specializes in training accelerant and explosive detection dogs for use by law enforcement and the military. ATF dogs have been deployed to the burned churches and have been successful in alerting officials to the presence of accelerants. Labrador retrievers are the preferred breed for the ATF K9 program. More than 550 ATF dogs are working in the United States and in 17 other countries.

Evidence has also been sent from the church fires to the ATF laboratory in Atlanta for analysis. A handprint, tire tracks, and other evidence not publicly disclosed have been found. Nine of the Baptist churches that were set afire were in remote rural areas of western Alabama, and were all active churches. The remote location of the churches suggests that the criminals are either local or did extensive research to find them, according to investigators.

The most recent Alabama church fire appears to have been set by a mentally disabled young man whose brother is a firefighter, according to Calhoun County Sheriff's Deputy Matthew Wade.

Twenty-one-year-old Jeffrey Watkins is suspected of setting fire to a former church that had been converted into a storage warehouse. Arson charges were filed against him, but Mr. Watkins is not a suspect in the other arsons.

The State of Alabama and the ATF are jointly offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved. The hotline for information is: 1-888-ATF-FIRE.

By Jay Reeves
2:21 a.m. February 13, 2006
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Investigators believe a pair of men in their 20s or 30s, likely “bosom buddies,” are responsible for a string of church fires in rural Alabama, as authorities confirmed the latest blaze at a Baptist church was the 10th case of arson.

The latest fire severely damaged Beaverton Freewill Baptist Church in northwest Alabama, near the Mississippi line. The white, wood-frame church sat about 150 yards off a two-lane county road and had an alarm system that alerted officials to the blaze.

“It's definitely arson,” state fire marshal spokesman Ragan Ingram said Sunday.

Fire marshals are investigating whether the Saturday afternoon blaze was linked to the other nine this month, which all were set in the pre-dawn hours. Last week, Gov. Bob Riley said the nine earlier church fires appear linked.

A federal investigator said witness reports and behavioral profilers led authorities to believe that two white men were responsible for the fires. Witnesses said they saw two men in a sport utility vehicle near a number of the fires.

“They're not youths or teens. It's probably someone in their 20s or 30s. We believe they're pretty much inseparable. They're something like bosom buddies,” said Eric Kehn, a spokesman for the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency.

Evidence from one of the earlier fires indicates the perpetrators may have been briefly trapped inside the building and may have been hurt, said Jim Cavanaugh, ATF regional director.

Investigators have said they don't know a motive, but there is no racial pattern. Five of the churches had white congregations and five black. All were Baptist, the dominant faith in the region, and mostly in isolated country settings.

Three Students Held in Ala. Church Fires
By JAY REEVES , 03.09.2006, 06:46 AM

For weeks, church parishioners in rural Alabama were on high alert, eager to find out who was burning down their churches. The answer, authorities now say, was three college students who took a joke too far.

Agents capped a month of tedious police work Wednesday when they arrested the three friends in connection with nine church arsons that had spread fear through rural Alabama.

According to court filings, the first arsons started as "a joke" that got out of hand. The other fires were apparently an attempt to throw off the massive arson investigation.

Jim Parker, pastor of Ashby Baptist Church, one of the churches burned, said he heard that the suspects were promising students from good families.

"We really are concerned about them as people," he said. "I would just like to know what they were thinking."

Two of the suspects were identified as Benjamin Nathan Moseley and Russell Lee DeBusk Jr., both 19-year-old students at Birmingham-Southern College. Matthew Lee Cloyd, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, also was arrested.

Dr. David Pollick, president of Birmingham-Southern College, said in statement that Moseley and DeBusk were suspended and banned from campus awaiting further action by authorities.

"The students, faculty and staff of our college are at once shocked and outraged, and we share the sorrow of our neighbors whose churches represent the heart and soul of their communities," Pollick said.

Acquaintances said DeBusk and Moseley were both amateur actors who were known as pranksters and dreamed of becoming stars. They performed in campus plays and appeared in a documentary film.

The arson attacks apparently began when the three got into Cloyd's sport utility vehicle for a night of deer shooting in Bibb County on Feb. 2., according to Walker Johnson, a federal agent who investigated the fires.

Moseley told agents that the three set fire to five Baptist churches in the early morning hours of Feb. 3. A witness quoted Cloyd as saying Moseley did it "as a joke and it got out of hand."

Moseley also told agents the four fires in west Alabama were set four days later "as a diversion to throw investigators off," an attempt that "obviously did not work," the court papers said.

A judge ordered the three held until a hearing Friday.

Investigators had said earlier that they were looking for two men seen in a dark SUV near a few of the church fires, and documents show Cloyd drove a green Toyota SUV.

Tire tracks found at the scene of six church fires allegedly matched the type of tires on Cloyd's Toyota: a BF Goodrich All Terrain model.

Jim Collins at Cahaba Tires in Pelham said agents arrived Tuesday looking for records of those who had bought the tire in recent months. He said he had sold it four times - and one of the customers was Cloyd's mother.

Agents spoke with Cloyd's parents, Kimberly and Michael Cloyd. The father, a physician, said his son admitted that "he knew who did it and he was there," according to an affidavit. Then after the arrests, Moseley described how the church arsons unfolded, the affidavit said.

"We pushed and pushed and pushed until we could make the break," said Jim Cavanaugh, regional head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "This is a very difficult case."

DeBusk and Moseley were arrested on the same day they were featured in the campus newspaper. The article discussed their performances in campus plays, a documentary and their work in the film they had hopes of screening this fall.

Moseley wanted to head for Los Angeles after graduation, and DeBusk might have accompanied him.

"This is our crawling before we can walk," Moseley told The Hilltop News.

"You're crawlin', I'm walking," said DeBusk. "I crawled in high school."

Cloyd, who previously attended Birmingham-Southern, transferred last fall to UAB but was not believed to be involved in acting or film making with DeBusk and Moseley.

An attorney for Cloyd, Tommy Spina, declined comment on the charges, but added: "This is not a hate crime. This is not a religious crime."

A lawyer for DeBusk did not immediately return a message seeking comment, and court files did not list an attorney for Moseley.

The three were jailed on federal charges of conspiracy and setting fire to a single church - Ashby Baptist. If convicted, each count carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. Additional charges are possible, authorities said.

Gov. Bob Riley said after the arrests that the arsons did not appear to be "any type of conspiracy against organized religion" or the Baptist faith.

"The faith-based community can rest a little easier," he said.

Associated Press writer Samira Jafari in Tuscaloosa contributed to this report.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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