‘Suspicious’ fires raze three black churches
OPELOUSAS – The sun rose Thursday to reveal the smoldering husk of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. A fire had consumed the church’s interior, and smoke rose through a gaping hole in the roof that had sheltered congregants for generations.
“My church has a lot of history,” the Rev. Gerald Toussaint said Saturday, noting that it was more than 140 years old. “I don’t understand it. What could make a person do that to a church?”
Authorities are considering the same questions after Mount Pleasant became the third predominantly black church to burn down in St. Landry Parish in the span of 10 days, setting local residents on edge. On March 26, flames reduced St. Mary Baptist Church to just a few walls and piles of rubble. And on April 2, a blaze struck the Greater Union Baptist Church.
Authorities have not determined a cause for the fires or established a connection, but they are being treated as crime scenes. State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning said, “we believe that these three fires are suspicious.” The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI are assisting.