By Kent Larsen
Fire That Destroyed LDS Chapel in Ohio Ruled Arson
LEXINGTON, OHIO -- Fire investigators have ruled that the fire that
destroyed part of an LDS chapel was an arson attack, and brought in
Federal investigators to help look for evidence and suspects. The
fire started before 3 am Tuesday, July 3rd in a classroom in the
building. The fire destroyed the building's chapel and three
classrooms before it hit a firewall and stopped. Damage was estimated
at $500,000 by local fire officials.
According to Lexington Township Fire Chief Mark Taschwer, the
department received a call reporting flames at the building at 2:50
am. Since the building is located on the border between Lexington
Township and Alliance, Ohio, 15 miles northeast of Canton, Ohio, both
fire departments responded to the blaze. Before the fire was put out
they had assistance from the fire departments of Washington and
Marlboro townships and Sebring, Ohio.
After the fire was extinguished, Taschwer called in the Federal
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms because the fire occurred in
a house of worship. Since a rash of arson church fires in the
Southern US several years ago, the ATF has been active in church fire
investigations. By that afternoon, six federal agents were picking
through the debris attempting to determine what caused the fire. They
determined that the fire was an arson because of the location where
it started and its burn pattern. However, investigators didn't find
any evidence that an accelerant was used.
The Church was fortunate, however, because a firewall, put in the
chapel when it was built at the suggestion of a brick mason, saved
about half the building. But as of Tuesday, Bishop James S. Kirt, of
the Alliance Ward, which meets in the building, didn't know where the
Ward would meet. But he was certain that the building would be
rebuilt. "We're self-insured; it'll be paid for before we build."
The arson attack comes after several LDS chapels in Utah have been
the targets of vandalism and arson attacks, which are still unsolved.
While Mormon News reports indicate that several LDS Chapels suffer
vandalism or arson attacks each year, figures on the number of
attacks are not available.
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