Investigators Think Church Fire Could Be Arson
ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI - FOX2now.com) - A Christmas tragedy went from sad to unthinkable Monday. Fire investigators said someone intentionally set a massive fire at the New Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church at 1260 North Euclid in North St. Louis. Investigators did not give specifics on the case.
But their suspicions were raised almost immediately upon learning the circumstances surrounding the incident. There was no smoke, no fire, when everyone left the church after the Christmas day service Friday. Less than hour later the 80 firefighters and 20 trucks responding to the 4 alarm fire, could not save the church.
Pastor Hosea Gales figured faulty wiring sparked the fire. Upon hearing the St. Louis Police Bomb and Arson unit took the case and were developing suspects Monday, he said he was appalled; baffled. He said he wanted to wait until commenting further until meeting with investigators himself.
Sunday, after the 250 member church held its service in a borrowed room at the Kennerly Temple of God Church in Christ, Gales said he doubted arson was the cause.
"I have no idea as to any malicious feelings on anybody's part," he said. "We've never had a problem there. As I've said, I've pastored that church for 34 years. We've never had a problem."
There was no reason to suspect a problem was coming, especially on Christmas. The fire spread so quickly, firefighters couldn't even go inside to try to fight it.
"It was just too hot inside," St. Louis fire department spokesman, Bob Keuss, said at the scene Friday. "The fire progressed too far for them. It became too dangerous. They had to back out and we immediately went into a defensive mode."
Monday, he said investigators had eliminated all accidental causes; including faulty wiring. The speed by which the fire spread suggested it could have started in more than one location; also an indicator of arson.
"The church burned but our spirit has not burned; neither is our faith," Gales said Sunday. "Therefore we must press on in His name."
There was no word on any suspects Monday.
Gales said the 250 or so members of his church would continue to worship at the Kennerly Temple until they could rebuild their own church.