By Jeff Brumley
Investigators now know that arson was the cause of two fires that struck Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday morning. What authorities and the CBF-affiliated church still don’t know is who did it and why.
“At this point we can’t point to anybody . . . it’s just a mystery,” Senior Pastor Al Cadenhead told ABPnews.
One of the fires was started in a hallway behind the 1,000-seat sanctuary, the other in a downstairs room that’s part of the church’s music department. While both fires burned themselves out before firefighters even arrived, Cadenhead said, the downstairs fire in particular caused a lot of damage.
“It looked like something out of one of those apocalyptic movies. It was black.”
The fires were discovered around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday when an employee opened the building and smelled smoke — which was drawn into other parts of the building by the ventilation system, Cadenhead said. “The sanctuary was gray with smoke.”
Damage estimates are between $50,000 and $100,000, mostly due to smoke.
CBF North Carolina posted a message on its homepage Friday encouraging prayers for the congregation, which it said plans to worship in the sanctuary on Sunday.
Cadenhead said he is not going to preach about the fires.
“I’m going to give a summary statement at the beginning and then I’m going to say ‘let’s worship,'” he said. “I am not going to let that color what we do for worship that day.”
The scene around the church has been like something out of the movies all week long. Local fire and police arson investigators have been crawling through the building, joined by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Because it’s a church, it comes under a different jurisdiction . . . so we’ve had the feds in here,” Cadenhead said.