I was a Firefighter for 10 years in the UK. In that time for half of that time I performed as an Officer in charge of a Fire truck. This involves filling out preliminary reports of fires which involves determining a cause. Also, after gaining the statutory qualifications for ALL Officer ranks I gained a Graduateship qualification with the Institution of Fire Engineers. One of the papers I passed with the IFE was Fire Investigation.
When I saw the recent spate of Black church fires, so close to the brutal murders at Emanuel AME, I couldn’t help but be highly skeptical when I saw tweets on my timeline fobbing off so many of these fires as lightning etc.
This being said, I am adult enough to be able to accept evidence in front of my eyes. I’m not on a witch hunt just trying to get to the bottom of something that seems very dubious.
I started this post to try and lay out as much info on the fires as possible so I can make more sense of them. It it is only in its infancy but I will add to it as I find out anything new.
So, I started with making a Google map of the fire locations
One of my issues with these incidents is that we the public are expected to just accept the Fire Investigation reports as is, without ever seeing them. I’m sorry, but I’ve been losing my faith in the powers for many years. I think many people have. However, I believe that due to the freedom of information act we should be able to gain access to the reports. However, this requires applying to multiple county jurisdictions for the reports paying fees etc. This doesn’t sound too FREE to me. With advances in technology I think the FOIA is due for a makeover. The public has come to expect instant news through social media. Governmental transparency must be much more rapid and infinitely more accessible.
One interesting thing I found out was just how many Church fires their are every year. The National Fire Prevention Association has been quoted with these statistics from it’s 2013 report U.S. Structure Fires in Religious and Funeral Properties, This states that between 2007-2001 , 1780 church fires occurred annually, with 16% being intentional.
In researching various news reports one thing that comes across is the variety of agencies being quoted for determinations of cause of fire. Sometimes it’s Fire Departments and in other news stories the ATF or FBI. Whether this is because the local fire departments made the determination of the cause of fire before turning it over to the ATF, as required, or whether it was just reporters quoting the agency that was available at the time, is unclear.
‘Under the 1996 Church Arson Prevention Act, the ATF is tasked with investigating the origin and cause of all fires or bomb attacks that occur at houses of worship throughout the United States.’ (attr. http://my.gvtc.com/news/read/article/afp-no_racial_motivation_seen_in_us_church_fires_atf-afp)
Next, I’m laying out all the fires chronologically with as much info and links as possible.
Here are the fires laid out chronologically with various links
1. June 21 – 9:47 p.m- College Hill Seventh-day Adventist — Knoxville, TN ARSON
Knoxville Fire Department found bales of straw burning up against the doors of the church. A church vehicle had also been set on fire. Church Pastor Cleveland Hobdy III believes this is a work of arson and from the burn patterns in the video, evidence and testimonies of firefighters I would have to say I would agree with the conclusion of Arson as the cause of fire .
However the authorities are calling it vandalism and not a hate crime. With the timing of this first fire being just 4 days after the brutal shootings at Mother Emanuel Church, I have to disagree. I imagine that a definite determination of intent needs to be proven before authorities can categorize this fire as a hate crime.
Please check out the links. The first one is more extensive and includes video.
2. June 23- 4.30am- God’s Power Church of Christ , Macon, Georgia- ARSON
3. June 23- 8.30pm – Fruitland Presbytarian Church, Gibson County, Tennessee- Lightning
Investigators are saying that lightning struck the steeple at around 8.30pm but fire wasn’t seen until approximately 2 hrs later
Fire Chief Bryan Cathey said that a neighbor reported multiple lightning strikes in the area?
Neighbor Hazel Moss due to life experiences attributed the fire to a lightning strike according to her life experiences
“I know lightning hit it. I mean I’m almost eighty years old and I know when lightning hits something. And it scared me,” said Moss.
She said she’ll never forget how quickly the church went up in flames. (attr. WREG)
From my point of view this seems reasonable. One thing seems conflicting though, Investigators said that the lightning struck the church at 8.30pm but flames weren’t noticed til 2hrs later (http://www.wbbjtv.com/news/local/Cause-of-GibsonCo-church-fire-determined-311085301.html) then Hazel Moss
“At first I thought it hit my house, but it struck the church across the street,” said Hazel Moss, 79, a neighbor who witnessed the fire. “I got up, noticed my window was glowing red, and thought ‘what in the world is going on’, and then I saw the fire.” ( http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/01/us-usa-churches-fires-idUSKCN0PB6AQ20150701 )
That sounds instantaneous unless she was misquoted and certainly not 2 hrs later.
4. June 24- 1am- Briar Creek Road Baptist Church, Charlotte , N. Carolina- ARSON
If you have any information about the case, call Crime Stoppers at 704-344-1600.
5. June 26-3:30 a.m – Glover Grove Baptist Church, Warrenville, S. Carolina- UNDETERMINED, under investigation
Without more information I really cannot comment on this one.
6. June 26 -5.15am- Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church, Tallahassee, Florida–Accidental, Electrical
This is being reported as Accidental, Electrical due to a tree limb falling on Electrical Power lines and causing a short. I haven’t found any witness statements for this one. The video shows a downed power line as stated ( http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/TFD-Responding-to-Structure-Fire-near-Wakulla-Campbell-Streets-310032681.html)
7. 6/27 – 7.15am- College Heights Baptist Church, Elyria, OH – Under investigation
8. 6/29- 6:30 p.m -Disciples of Christ Ministries, Jackson, Mississippi- Ruled Accidental, Electrical
Fire officials said some work was being done on an electrical box, which sparked the fire. It has been ruled accidental.
This was confirmed by the Pastor, who was there when fire broke out. > (http://www.jacksonadvocateonline.com/the-disciples-of-christ-ministries/)
9. 6/30 – 9pm- Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal, Greeleyville, S.C- Lightning
Lightning was deemed the cause of this fire. This was backed up by debris analysis, weather conditions and witness statements. I haven’t seen any evidence yet and no names were quoted as witnesses so I cannot say one way or another . This church was previously burned down by the KKK
I’d like to be able to call BS and racism on all these fires but with over a 100 church fires a month in the US I really can’t at this stage. If I get to see some evidence maybe I can decide otherwise.
I will give more info as soon as I find out anything. Rather than create a new post, I will update this one. I hope that this is of some use . Researching it was useful for me personally as I wasn’t aware there were quite so many church fires (1780 per year which seems amazingly high. The NFPA attributes the fires to cooking and accidental mainly with roughly 19% being arson. A contributing factor also is that the buildings tend to be older structures that due to ‘ Grandfather rights’ are not required to adhere to all the most recent fire regulations and consequently more fires occur. It was also useful for me to be able to see where the churches were and the times that the fires occurred.