3rd Alabama Church Arson in 2 Days Prompts Command Post

January 7, 2008

Investigators are trying to determine what started separate fires that gutted a church and two houses in rural Lee County, Ala.

Authorities said a man was seriously injured in a house fire reported about 1 a.m. on Jan. 3, near Farmville, a church in Smiths Station was destroyed by a fire reported around 4 a.m., and a home in Loachapoka was destroyed by a fire that was called in around 5:30 a.m.

Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said a passerby called 911 to report the fire at Greater Bethelpore Baptist Church in Smiths Station. Volunteer fire departments from three communities responded, but by the time they arrived the church was engulfed in flames.

The cause of the fire was arson, one of three church arsons in rural east Alabama in two days, according to the state fire marshal. A command post will be created to help solve the arson cases.

In the Farmville fire, a man suffered second and third degree burns and a woman escaped unharmed as the blaze caused heavy damage to the house. Farmville Volunteer Fire Chief Peter Isdall said the man was airlifted to UAB Hospital in Birmingham.

Isdall said the cause of the house fire was undetermined, but it is believed to be accidental.

In Loachapoka, no one was injured in the house fire that took firefighters about two hours to extinguish

Auburn’s acting fire chief, Lee Lamar, said the Southwest Volunteer Fire Department will conduct an investigation to determine the fire’s cause.

Information from: Opelika-Auburn News

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