Texas Churches Up Security After String of Fires

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More church fires in Texas have arson investigators stepping up their search for suspects.

Ten churches in east Texas have burned down since New Year's Day.  The latest fires took place near Tyler, Texas.

Dover Baptist Church went up in flames Feb. 15, followed by Clear Springs Missionary Baptist Church 30 minutes later.

Agents with The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say they believe a serial arsonist or group of arsonists is targeting the churches.

"We've been doing this for a long time," said Clay Alexander, head of the ATF office in Tyler. "We're not getting a lot of sleep. We're tired. We're frustrated that this is continuing to happen. But we remain strong in our belief that we're going to find who did this."

Members of the latest churches that burned are devastated.

"I went from being a baby all the way to grown up in this church," Dover Baptist Church member Cheryl Palmer said. "I can't believe it. It's awful."

The church had taken precautions because of so many recent church fires. They barred their church doors and installed dummy security cameras to deter any would-be arsonist, but it was not enough.

"I'm hurt. This is home. I'm hurt," said Margaret Moore of Crystal Spring Missionary Church.

The church's leader, Pastor Brandon Owens, has a good idea how their fire was set.

"One of the officers told us earlier that what they believed happened is someone kicked in the side door and actually stood in the pulpit and started the fire," he said.

The Texas church fires recall a similar scene in Alabama from 2006 where nine churches burned in two days. Authorities eventually arrested three Birmingham college students who pled guilty to arson.

In east Texas, local authorities fear more fires and are meeting with church leaders to discuss safety.  For all congregations in the region, it's a time of testing.

"To all preachers, pastors everywhere please, please get your security done," Owens recommended. "Make sure your insurance is right and most of all, make sure you're prayed up."

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CBN News
Heather Sells

Heather Sells

CBN News Reporter

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