Local News

Investigators Call Church Fire Suspicious

Posted January 27, 1999

— Investigators are on the scene of a Wayne County church that was heavily damaged by a fire authorities call suspicious.

The fire started around dusk Wednesday in the Reaching the World for Christ Ministries. Many members of the ministry are African American.

The building is in an older, established neighborhood. Residents say the church is a good neighbor.

"We never had any problems here, and I'm surprised," says Rhomer Howard. "But anything can happen."

The flames broke out in the Sunday School building behind the sanctuary. Crews quickly controlled the fire, but not until after the flames destroyed several rooms and caused smoke damage throughout the sanctuary.

Police say the fire is suspicious. State investigators have been called in, along with ATF agents. They spent Thursday inspecting the church for evidence.

Investigators say the fire may have been set, but the pastor has his doubts.

"This is a good area, a good location. Everybody gets along pretty good in this area. I didn't have not problem with anyone like that," said Rev. Ed Jones.

The church did not receive any threats before the fire, but because black churches across the south were targeted a few years ago, the city has called for help.

Investigators are keeping the church sealed off until they know exactly what happened.

Regardless of what turns up, Jones expects his congregation to stick together.

"It will bring them closer together by this happening. Through this tragedy, everything will pull us closer together.

People who live in the quiet neighborhood were shocked to hear about the fire.

"This is a good neighborhood and we've never had anything like this happen before," says church neighbor Kenneth Whitfield. "It's really shocking."

Members will worship with sister churches until the $70,000 dollar clean up is complete.


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