Another suspicious fire destroys vacant church

Published On: Feb 01 2014 12:26:51 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 03 2014 11:07:01 AM EST

Multiple fires in a matter of months at the same Westside church, with the latest one happening Saturday morning, and fire officials are calling it suspicious.  

The fire broke out around 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning at the Church of the Epiphany at the corner of Harlow Boulevard and 103rd Street.

Investigators say it took firefighters an hour to get the blaze under control. The sanctuary was a total loss.

Nelson McArthur says the church more than a building. He has more than two decades of memories attending the Church of the Epiphany. Now, the sanctuary where he worshiped and taught Sunday School is destroyed.  

"It's horrible to see it like this," McArthur said. "The bells gone from the bell tower. Now they finally burned the sanctuary."  

An officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office noticed the fire Saturday morning and called the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department. (Photo courtesy of Jacksonville Association of Firefighters)

The fire was so large, it took hours to put out. Luckily no one was inside, the church has been vacant for about a year.

But for Greg Power, that makes the loss no less painful.  

"It's probably not as active at the moment. It's still a church," Powers said. "The building is a church and it functions as a church so it's still a church to me."

State Fire Marshals spent most of the day inside the building investigating and collecting evidence. Right now they say the fire looks suspicious.  

While its hard for many to see the building in this condition, unfortunately this isn't the first time that the church has caught on fire.  

Several fires were set at the church the previous weekend and a much larger fire broke out there last September.

Investigators believe that fire was arson and as detectives search for who's responsible, McArthur says they may have burned this building, but that's not what this church is about.  

It's just the memories that we have of the church and the good things it did," McArthur said. "Preaching the gospel, bringing people to Christ that I remember and they can't take that away."

A $5,000 reward is being offered in connection with the arson fires. Anyone with any information is asked to call the 877-NO-ARSON.


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