As of June 20, arson had not been ruled out as a cause of the fire.
The fire at Abundant Life Church that occurred June 12 remains under investigation, according to the report issued by the Warrenton Fire Protection District.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Missouri State Fire Marshals are handling the investigation. As of June 20, arson had not been ruled out as a cause of the fire.
ATF has a congressional mandate to investigate fires at churches and other houses of worship.
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The initial call was received at 4:52 a.m. The caller reported something was on fire in the direction of both the church and Extra Space Storage, according to the dispatch notes. The caller was unable to see through the black smoke. The caller also said that it smelled like hot plastic.
Warrenton firefighters initially responded at 5:03 a.m. to Extra Space Storage but relocated to the church after noticing “heavy smoke and an orange glow coming from the area,” according to the report narrative.
The report states that there was heavy smoke coming from two sides of the church building. Firefighters made their way up wooden stairs on one side of the building and forced open a door.
The report states that firefighters could tell someone had been sleeping in the room as they discovered a mattress and sleeping bag, but after a search of the room found no one.
Firefighters tried “making fire attack through a door,” but were met with temperatures greater than 600 degrees. They then tried entering the church through a different side of the building, but were again met with extreme heat and fire.
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That’s when firefighters “started a defensive attack” as they had not yet established a water supply nor had any additional units yet on scene.
A second alarm was called at 5:21 a.m. The dispatch calls stated that at 5:33 a.m. fire was “completely through the roof.” The church pastor arrived on scene at 6 a.m. and at 6:06, the dispatch notes state “fire throughout the building, complete collapse, defensive attack per command.”
By 7:10 a.m. the dispatch notes say the fire was under control. The state fire marshal arrived at 7:49 a.m. and began investigating shortly before 8 a.m.
The last fire unit left the scene shortly after 4:30 p.m.
According to a news release from the Warren County Emergency Management Agency, fire departments assisting Warrenton came from Wright City, Marthasville, Lincoln County, New Melle, Wentzville, Jonesburg, Washington, Boles, Pacific, and St. Clair.
The day of the fire, an Abundant Life Church attendee, Joe Solomon, told KSDK Channel 5 the fire occurred after an incident at the church the previous day.
“We had an intruder that came into the service, and he was very disruptive. We didn’t know what his intentions were,” Solomon said. “When he walked out of the church I followed him out and locked the doors. This intruder came to the pastor’s house two days ago at 5 a.m. unannounced. It was the same man that came to the church Sunday morning.”
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at email@example.com
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