A fire that destroyed a Dublin church Friday has been ruled an arson, authorities said Tuesday.
A trained dog sniffing through the debris of the fire at Central Baptist Church on Tuesday pinpointed a couple of spots where an accelerant may have been used, and those samples have been sent off for testing, Dublin Fire Chief Robert Drew said.
“It was inside the building,” he said. “We are sending samples to the lab.”
Authorities determined Tuesday evening that the fire had been deliberately set after ruling out any accidental causes, said Glenn Allen, a spokesman for the state insurance commissioner’s office.
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With the investigation so far, “We definitely had to believe it was intentionally set,” Allen said.
Accelerants can leave behind traces of their presence and use. The presence of such substances in areas where they shouldn’t be can indicate an arson.
Allen said it’s too early to say whether the Central Baptist case could be a hate crime. Federal authorities, in time, would have to make that determination, depending on where the investigation leads.
The Rev. Ellis Carswell, pastor of the 50-year-old church, said from the beginning that he thought the Friday fire was intentional. On Aug. 3, in a case already ruled an arson, someone threw a brick through one of the church windows and tried to set a curtain on fire.
Investigators are trying to determine whether the cases are related. They have talked to people who saw the fire and are continuing to interview others who could provide leads in the case.
The church, located at 521 Smith St., has about 125 members.
Reward money of up to $10,000 is being offered for information in the case at (800) 282-5804.
“We need the public’s help in finding who is responsible,” Allen said. “We want to put the person or persons responsible behind bars.”
Anyone who would burn down a church, he said, “is someone who is capable of doing anything.”
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.