Arson May Be Behind Church Fire In Perry

Thursday, March 17th 2011, 9:35 am
By: News 9

PERRY, Oklahoma -- A fire that destroyed a church in Perry may have been deliberately set.

Someone reported seeing flames shooting from the First Presbyterian Church around 2 a.m. Thursday, March 17. Firefighters rushed to save the church but could not. Flames destroyed the church and firefighters said it was a total loss.

Firefighters do not know how the fire started and spent a large part of Thursday putting out hot spots at the church, but high winds Thursday caused flames to rekindle.

"[The wind] caused a lot of problems. We had a lot of embers. We had two structures on the north side that were in danger. One of them actually did catch fire, but we were able to catch it before it got out of control," said Perry Fire Chief Wayne Emmons.

It took Perry firefighters and mutual aid from out of town to finally extinguish the fire.

Witnesses reported two people were seen running from First Presbyterian Church around the time the fire started. There's no description of the individuals. Church officials said roofing work was done on site Wednesday.

First Presbyterian Church Fire In Perry

Emmons said it will probably be Monday before they find the cause of the fire.

Perry residents said they were shocked when they woke up to see the church engulfed in flames.

"I woke up this morning to see the church go up in flames. It was very scary," said Chassity Williamson, a Perry mother of five. "The coals were flying toward our house and we couldn't get out of our front door, so we had to leave out the back to avoid the heat from the flames. I'm glad my kids are OK though. We're going to be staying at a relative's house for now."

Witnesses said a boy was seen kicking in the church door thinking someone may have been inside. No one was found and the boy is said to be doing OK.

No injuries were reported.