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Church Fire Was Act Of Arson

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HACIENDA HEIGHTS (CBS) —  The fire that destroyed a Catholic church in Hacienda Heights just after midnight, causing an estimated $8 million in damage was an act of arson, officials said Sunday.

The 12:04 a.m. blaze at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 1345 Turnbull Canyon Road, burned for about 2 1/2 hours before county fire crews were able to quench it.

“The extensive structure fire has been confirmed as an act of arson,” said Capt. Mike Parker of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau. “We are actively investigating to identify the suspect responsible.”

The Arson/Explosives Detail of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will now lead the investigation.

A priest was treated at the scene, possibly for smoke inhalation, but he was believed to be OK.

The devastating fire caused pain in the hearts of parishioners. KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports.

Peters said firefighters, who were unable to enter the church, used a “surround and drown” approach.

“It was a defensive fire, so they fought it from the outside,” he said. “No one went inside. It was totally engulfed.”

The blaze was declared out at 2:34 a.m.

Sheriff’s Lt. Joe Chavez of the Industry Station estimated damage at $8 million.

Anyone with more information was urged to call sheriff’s arson investigators at (323) 881-7500. Tips can be left anonymously by texting TIPLA, plus the information, to 274637, or via the Crime Stoppers website at crimestoppers.org

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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