New Life Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis became the fifth house of worship to burn in the past ten days when it was scorched in a blaze Saturday, throwing arson investigators into high gear in an effort to determine who is setting fire to the city’s religious structures.
The fires, all of which have been set by the front doors, caused minimal damage to the buildings, St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson told NBC News.
Thankfully, no one has been injured in the blazes. The site reports:
Investigators from the St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting the St. Louis Fire Department and local police departments in an effort determine if all five fires are related, Jenkerson said. The five churches that have been set ablaze are within about three miles of one another, he said.
“We’ve got similarities in how the fires are set, which is what we’re looking at,” Jenkins said. But the fires haven’t all been set at the same time of day, and don’t seem to target specific types of churches. Jenkins said the churches that have been set on fire are of varying denominations and sizes.
While officials have not yet released any information on the possible suspects, Pastor David Briggs tells Fox2Now that he has prayed for the suspected arsonists.
“I have forgiven them. I don’t want the communities to be angry. I don’t want the churches to be angry, because it is in these moments that our character is tested,” he said.
The last rash of fires against Black churches occurred in the weeks that followed the Charleston AME Mother Emanuel massacre this past summer. Seven fires broke out in ten days, though officials were slow to blame arsonists for the blazes. As originally reported by NewsOne, at least one of the fires was caused by lightning. In fact, a report released just days after the seventh fire revealed that 84 percent of church fires are not intentionally set.
But the St. Louis church fires, authorities said, are definitely arson.
“These are being intentionally set. This is not spontaneous combustion, so they are not occurring on their own,” St. Louis Fire Captain Garon Mosby said.
An investigation continues.