Task force created to investigate arson fires at churches in Van - KPTV - FOX 12

Task force created to investigate arson fires at churches in Vancouver area

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Damage done to First Congressional United Church of Christ (KPTV) Damage done to First Congressional United Church of Christ (KPTV)

The Clark County Fire Marshall’s Office has announced the formation of a special task force to investigate three arson fires at churches in the Vancouver area in the past week.

The task force will include investigators from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the Vancouver Police Department, and the Vancouver Fire Department.

“Clark County resources are limited,” said Jon Dunaway, the Clark County Fire Marshall. “When you start putting more agencies together, you start putting together a group that has more staffing, more equipment.”

Dunaway said he believes the three fires were started by the same person.

Of the three churches targeted, First Congregational United Church of Christ saw the heaviest damage, estimated at close to two million dollars.

The damage at Liberty Bible Church was roughly $250,000.

Liberty Bible Church’s Administrative Pastor, Johnnie Pesacreta, estimated repairs to the ground floor of the church could take one or two months.

Pesacreta said members of his congregation were shocked their church was targeted, and can’t imagine who would have done such a thing.

“We just really feel for the person,” said Pesacreta.  “As a congregation we’re praying for them.  We’re praying one that they’re apprehended and are held accountable for the things that they’ve done, but we want them to get the help they obviously need.”

Pesacreta said church services have not been interrupted, but the pastor at First Congregational United said services were moved to the parking lot, under a tent, where they’ll be held for two more weeks.

After that, congregants will meet at Synagogue Congregation Kol Ani on 119th Street in Vancouver.

Investigators are asking members of the community to report any suspicious activity around churches in the area immediately.

Anonymous tips can be left by calling the Clark County Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at 877-CRIME-11 (877-274-6311).

There is a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

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