Arsonist targets Fresno Catholic church during Holy Week

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An arsonist lit up a Fresno Catholic church during Easter week, but the damage was minimal because of what he couldn't see. (KFSN)

An arsonist lit up a Fresno Catholic church during Easter week, but the damage was minimal because of what he couldn't see.

"It's divine intervention," said Debbie McKenzie, risk manager for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno. "It's our guardian angels working overtime."

They're in the middle of Holy Week and as Holy Spirit church prepared for Holy Thursday mass a wooden plank is in the place where a window should be. A wooden window in the front, charred concrete in the back; the mark of two fires set at the church.

"The incident in itself having two fires on scene is very suspicious," said Fresno police Lt. Ron Hughes. "We are treating the matter as an arson."

As Easter approaches, the arsonist took aim at a building filled with administrative offices and a small sanctuary. Police found the first fire after a burglar alarm went off.

"Somehow they broke the window and poured some accelerant, we believe it's gasoline, inside the window, stuck their hand inside the window and poured the accelerant inside a potted plant.," said McKenzie.

The plant kept the flames from growing very big and burning nearby images of Jesus. Police officers actually put it out with a single bottle of water. And at the time, they didn't even know about the fire in back.

But firefighters did. It was a little bigger, spreading up a dumpster, and some kids called for help. Firefighters were there putting it out when police circled the building to look for clues.

Arson investigators are now trying to trace the clues back to the arsonist. Church officials want to know why they were targeted.

"I just hope and pray it wasn't a hate crime," said McKenzie. "I hope and pray this wasn't something terrible."

Witnesses describe the suspect as a white man in his mid-twenties or thirties, about six feet tall with a medium build. He may have been bald and he was wearing a baggy gray sweatshirt and green camouflage shorts.
Related Topics:
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