HYDE PARK (CBSLA.com) — Investigators say arson may be what caused a fire that ripped through a church in South Los Angeles Friday.
Several members of the Galilee Baptist community said they are struggling with the loss of their 70-year-old church.
“It’s just devastating, not only to the church but to the community,” Deacon Calvin Ford said.
L.A. City Fire officials said when they arrived at 4:20 p.m. they found heavy smoke and flames pouring out of the single-story structure, located at 4731 S. 11th Street.
“The flames were up so high I don’t know how the trees are still standing. It was that powerful,” said Velma Taylor, who lives nearby.
Firefighters were able to save the building, but there’s extensive damage to the sanctuary and classrooms.
No injuries were reported.
“Could someone have intentionally done this? If so, why?” congregation member Pam Licavoli said.
Arson investigators were on scene that night, suspecting the blaze may have been set intentionally since nothing was happening at the church when it ignited. They said they found evidence of accelerants which are used to help a fire spread more quickly.
“We want to be able to rule out any foul play. Anytime it’s a church, we want to make sure hate crimes or anything like that is looked into,” Fire Battalion Chief Armando Hogan said.
While investigators search for answers the congregation is searching for forgiveness.
“If it is arson, I’m looking to pray for the ones that had no reverence for God’s house,” Chaney said.
“We’re all just regular people, struggling together, loving each other to do the will of God. It’s up to us now to look for another place to worship this Sunday,” the pastor said.