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Fire at Black church in US being investigated as possible arson

Springfield, Massachusetts, US

A fire early Monday morning at a Massachusetts church with a predominantly Black congregation is considered “highly suspicious” and is being investigated as a possible arson, authorities said.

City, state and federal authorities are investigating the fire that heavily damaged the Martin Luther King Community Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Fire Commissioner Bernard Calvi said at a news conference.

The fire was reported at about 5am, and although it was limited mostly to the basement and first floor the building is now unusable, Calvi said. No one was injured.

There have been several smaller fires in the neighbourhood recently and investigators are looking into possible connections.

The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting with the investigation.

A reward of up to $US5,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

“It’s terrible that someone tried to tried to burn down Martin Luther King Community Presbyterian Church,” Mayor Domenic Sarno said. “It looks to be an arson type of situation and we are reviewing cameras.”

In 2008, a few hours after Barack Obama was elected president, a Black church in Springfield was destroyed in an intentionally set fire that authorities said was racially motivated. Three white men were arrested and convicted.

Meanwhile, authorities are also investigating what’s being called a suspicious fire at a Nativity scene at a Cape Cod church.

Firefighters responding to a 911 call went to the United Methodist Church in Yarmouth at about 11pm last Wednesday, according to a Facebook post by police.

The fire was already out by the time crews arrived, but some materials were still smoldering, police said.

Firefighters doused the nativity scene with water and determined the area was safe. 

Mostly hay and wood was damaged, and there was no damage to the church building.

The cause remains under investigation, but “the fire and the incident is classified as suspicious at this time,” according to the statement.



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