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Investigation reveals Morrow church fire was arson

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

The fire that heavily damaged Calvary Baptist Church in Morrow, early Sunday morning, was the result of arson, said state officials on Tuesday.

"It was discovered during the investigation that there were traces of an accelarant found," said Glenn Allen, director of media relations for Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine. "All accidental causes have been eliminated."

Allen said investigators could not release information about the type of accelarant used, or exactly how the fire was started at the church, which is located at 7130 Mt. Zion Circle.

Investigators believe the fire started in the rear of the building, according to Battalion Chief Landry Merkison of the Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Department. He said no one was injured in the blaze.

The fellowship hall next door to the church building received some exterior damage, and smoke damage on the interior, Merkison said.

Although the fire did not destroy the fellowship hall, the building received too much damage for the congregation to hold services there without extensive clean-up and some renovation, according to Merkison.

Church members held service under an oak tree in front of the church Sunday, according to the church's pastor, Mike Mullins. Mullins said the church has received offers from several local churches, and even a funeral home, to use their facilities for worship services. The 30-year-old church has 57 members, according to Mullins.

"Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved [in the alleged arson]," said Oxendine's spokesman, Glenn Allen.

"We really are looking for help from the public. Commissioner Oxendine considers this person to be extremely dangerous -- someone that would set a house of worship on fire," he said.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner's arson hotline at 1-800-282-5804.