Echo Park church fire may be ar­son

Early- morn­ing blaze nearly de­stroys 100- year- old build­ing that served mostly eth­nic groups.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Veron­ica Rocha veron­ For break­ing news in Cal­i­for­nia, fol­low @ Veroni­caRochaLA

A 100- year- old build­ing in Echo Park that served as a home for mostly eth­nic re­li­gious groups was nearly de­stroyed in an early- morn­ing f ire that may have been in­ten­tion­ally set, of­fi­cials said.

Fore­run­ners for Christ church had been host­ing ser­vices and re­li­gious groups in the build­ing in the 1600 block of North Mor­ton Av­enue for seven years and had be­come a part of the com­mu­nity.

So it came as a shock to some Mon­day that the church may have been tar­geted.

“Why? Why?” asked se­nior pas­tor Linda Cruz.

Of­fi­cials said the fire was re­ported shortly be­fore 2: 30 a. m. Flames were seen on the church’s porch be­fore sweep­ing into the at­tic, said Brian Humphrey, spokesman for the Los An­ge­les Fire Depart­ment.

Fire­fight­ers put out the blaze be­fore it spread to the rest of build­ing. No one was in­jured.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­mined that it may have been in­ten­tional, Humphrey said. Lo­cal, state and fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors with the Na­tional Church Ar­son Task Force, es­tab­lished in 1996, were called in.

In Los An­ge­les, most church f ires are started by an unat­tended can­dle or dur­ing a bur­glary, Humphrey said.

Cruz said she had gone through ev­ery pos­si­ble sce­nario for what could have led to Mon­day’s f ire, but none made any sense.

The church hosts two Latino groups as well as 50 to 60 reg­u­lar parish­ioners who are mostly Filipino, Samoan and black, she said.

Parish­ioners are up­set, she said, but the church will per­se­vere.

Her mes­sage to the f ire starter: “We for­give him for what­ever rea­son he did it.”

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