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Officials investigating 'suspicious' church fire

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Officials are investigating a fire at Mt. Calvary United Methodist Church, Cory, Tuesday morning. The damage was limited to the roof over the cellar in the basement area of the more than 145-year-old church. Ivy Jackson Photo.
CORY -- Quick action by local fire departments helped save a church, which dates back to the civil war era, from a "suspicious" fire Tuesday morning.

According to information provided by officials, shortly after 7 a.m., a caller reported a fire at Mt. Calvary United Methodist Church, 200 North County Road 250 West, to 911 dispatchers at the Clay County Justice Center.

Arriving on the scene within 12 minutes, members of the Cory Township and the Center Point Township Volunteer Fire Departments witnessed flames on a roof over the cellar located in the basement area of the church.

Although the shingles in the cellar roof were on fire, firefighters were able to quickly contain the fire.

"The quick response time of the fire departments saved the church," Clay County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Rob Gambill told The Brazil Times.

"Once it was out, the fire was determined to be suspicious in nature. Due to several fires in the area recently, the Indiana State Fire Marshal was immediately contacted."

Deputy Josh Krause secured the scene until the Indiana Department of Homeland Security Division of Fire and Building Safety was contacted and Assistant Chief of Investigations for the Division of Fire and Building Safety Fred Daffer arrived to investigate the fire.

Through the course of the investigation, Daffer determined an undisclosed accelerant was used to start the fire in the cellar roof area.

Gambill said Daffer notified the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms of the church fire because in some instances the intentional burning of a church is a federal crime.

During the investigation, Gambill said church members provided information about the history of the Mt. Calvary United Methodist Church.

"We were told construction began on the church prior to the Civil War, then was suspended during the war, but the church was completed after the end of the war," he said.

"A contractor has been contacted to assess the damages."

Officials confirmed the church fire was one of the latest in a series of suspicious fires occurring in the past several months in the areas of Posey, Perry, Jackson and Sugar Ridge Townships in Clay County. However, the other homes and structures were abandoned.

"If anyone has information about this fire, or any of the others, we need them to contact us," Gambill said about the ongoing investigation.

To report information about this case, or any other, contact Chief Deputy Gambill at the Clay County Sheriff's Department at 812-446-2535 or by using the Arson Hot Line at 1-800-382-4628.

Just the facts

Officials confirm a suspicious fire at Mt. Calvary United Methodist Church is the latest in a series of strange fires occurring in the past several months at a number of abandoned homes and other structures in the townships of Posey, Perry, Jackson and Sugar Ridge in Clay County.

The Clay County Sheriff's Department is asking that anybody with any information regarding any of the arson fires to make a report by calling the department at 812-446-2535 or by using the Arson Hot Line at 1-800-382-4628.

Callers may remain anonymous, but some callers to the Arson Hotline have received rewards of up to $5,000 from the state for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of arsonists.

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Mercy! I pray this was some kind of an accident and was not arson. Burning a church! Hope they like fire because you will spend eternity burning for that act!

-- Posted by sassypants on Wed, Jul 9, 2008, at 9:28 AM

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