UPDATE – Federal and state agencies find no connection in church fires

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Soon after the racist massacre that took nine lives at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston SC, a string of suspicious fires burned the buildings of 6 predominantly Black congregations. Six fires burning African American churches in five states over an eight day period demanded a closer probe; was someone targeting African American churches in the South? At this moment the answer appears to be no.

The latest fire destroyed the Mt Zion AME Church in Greeleyville SC. The congregation’s most recent building had been dedicated by former President Bill Clinton in 1996 after the KKK had burned down the church the year before. iuHowever, speaking to the most recent fire event authorities report that “Based upon the scene examination, the fire debris analysis, witness statements and a lightning strike report, the cause of the fire was best classified as natural. Investigators observed no indicator of criminal intent. The investigation is complete.” Officials believe that the fire may have been ignited by a lightening strike.

Authorities are investigating three of the fires as arsons. The first church set afire on Sunday, 21 JUN was the College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville TN. Flammable material was stacked against the doors and set ablaze. The second fire attributed to possible arson was started at the God’s Power Church of Christ two days later, 23 JUN, in Macon GA. A third suspected arson burned the Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in east Charlotte NC in the early morning hours of 24 JUN. However, investigating authorities have not made any connection between the fires and do not believe at this point that a coordinated conspiracy to burn the buildings of Black congregations throughout the South is involved. Nor do they have evidence that the fires have been racially motivated, allowing the ATF and the FBI to classify them as hate crimes.

The fire reported at the Fruitland Presbyterian Church, Memphis, TN also on 23 JUN, is suspected to have been caused by a lightening strike. Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville SC was destroyed by fire in the early hours of 26 JUN. Local authorities have not found any evidence that the suspicious fire was arson and so haven’t been able to rule out accidental ignition. The cause of the fire is undetermined presently. The fire that destroyed the Greater Miracle Temple Apostolic Holiness Church, Tallahassee, FL early Friday morning 26 JUN has officially been determined to have been ignited by tree limbs falling on electrical wires causing an electric arch that set fire to the building. Ironically the church’s sign is reported to have recently had the message Call 911. This church is on fire!

Posted by David Allen

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