$10,000 reward offered for information about Dublin church fire

Up to $10,000 in reward money is being offered for information about Friday’s fire that destroyed Central Baptist Church in Dublin, a state fire marshal’s office official said Monday.

The reward is being offered by the state insurance commissioner’s office and Georgia Arson Control Board, said Glenn Allen, the fire marshal’s office spokesman.

Investigators from the Dublin fire and police departments, state fire marshal’s office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives launched an investigation Monday into what destroyed the 50-year-old sanctuary, but they have not yet released a cause or ruled it an arson.

“It’s definitely highly suspicious,” Allen said late Monday.

On Aug. 3, someone threw a brick through the church window and tried to set a curtain on fire. Allen said that attempt has been ruled to be arson.

The earlier fire “extinguished itself,” he said.

As components of the latest probe, investigators are examining the rubble in areas least burned and moving to areas that sustained more damage, said Dublin Fire Chief Robert Drew.

Drew said investigators also plan to interview people who saw the fire.

“We’re working on it diligently,” he said.

As of late Monday, Drew said fire officials would resume the investigation Tuesday. The Rev. Ellis Carswell, pastor of the church, said he suspects Friday’s fire was intentional because of the prior fire.

Carswell said he’s unsure whether the church is insured for fire but is checking to find out.

Several area churches have offered aid to the Central Baptist congregation since Friday’s blaze, he said. Sunday services were held at First Rehoboth Association Center on Old Macon Road in Dublin. “Our members just really turned out,” he said.

Carswell said the church will meet Wednesday for Bible study and next Sunday for regular services at the center.

Firefighters responded to the flames about 2:30 p.m. Friday, but the church continued to burn into the evening. Three firefighters were taken to a local hospital because of heat exhaustion.

The roughly 6,000-square-foot church at 521 Smith St. has about 125 members.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call (800) 282-5804.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.