POLAND -- Officials believe an accelerant was used to set a fire at the Poland Presbyterian Church early Tuesday morning.
Around 3 a.m., Tuesday, a local resident reported to 911 dispatchers the church, located on State Road 42, was on fire. Firefighters of the Poland and Jackson Township volunteer fire departments were dispatched to the scene.
Upon arrival, Poland firefighters discovered flames shooting from church windows, however, most of the fire was contained to the inside of the structure. JTVFD was then disregarded en route, but left on standby for tanker assistance.
After the fire was put out, firefighters reported what appeared to be a clear pattern of accelerant on damaged carpet. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security Division of Fire and Building Safety was notified and requested to send a fire marshal to the scene to help determine the cause the fire. Preliminary results have determined the fire was set, but further details are not available due to the ongoing investigation.
Members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene during the investigation.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, Poland Historical Chapter Society President Joyce Smidley told The Brazil Times the 130-year-old church has suffered severe damage.
"It's a mess," Smidley said. "We will have to get a restoration expert in there before we know the cost of the damages."
She said the thick black smoke blackened the walls and the furniture, while the intense heat cracked windows, melted light sconces and damaged many of the pews. Sections of the floor have also been charred and burnt through during the fire.
Smidley confirmed the historical society was replacing some of the church windows before the fire, but they will have to start over again because the frames were damaged.
"The Poland Fire Department did an extraordinary job of containing the fire and we were so lucky that board member Donna Wells, who lives across from the church, took her dog outside and saw the flames coming out of the window."
Although the fire is tragic, the historical society will be able to discuss the matter and decide on a plan of action during its annual meeting this Sunday.
"Instead of holding the meeting at the church, we will be at the Poland Fire Department," Smidley said, adding those interested in helping with the clean up and restoration effort are invited to attend the meeting at 3 p.m. "We're really going to have to rely upon donations and volunteers to do the work."