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N.C. Baptist Church Fires Ruled Arson

( [email protected] ) Jan 19, 2007 02:32 PM EST

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Fires at two Baptist churches that erupted within an hour of each other last weekend have been declared arson.

A fast-moving fire consumed more than half of The Memorial Baptist Church on Saturday night and caused more than $1 million in damage, officials said. Firefighters managed to contain a second fire to a single room at the nearby Unity Free Will Baptist Church, where damage was estimated at $30,000 to $40,000.

"We've looked at every way that the fires could have started, and it points to arson," Greenville police Cpl. Kip Gaskins said Thursday.

Police also responded Saturday night to a reported break-in at a third Baptist church less than a mile from The Memorial. Gaskins said law enforcement officers have increased patrols near churches.

The State Bureau of Investigation and the Greenville Fire Department are analyzing the cause and origin of the blazes, Gaskins said. The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also helping.

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