ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KPLR) - Fox 2 News got an inside look at the real tragedy behind seven church fires in two weeks in St. Louis.
The congregation at Bethel Non-Denominational Church in Jennings has been left reeling. Theirs was the first church to be burned.
The damage goes far beyond the scorched stone around the church’s side entrance at Lillian and Irving.
The first thing that hits you walking into the church is the smell of smoke.
To keep the fire from taking the entire church firefighters had to break through locked doors and make sure flames hadn’t spread throughout the building.
Thankfully, a Good Samaritan called 911 while only one church door was burning.
“I know that probably saved our building,” said Pastor James Thomas. “I want to say ‘thank you’ to whoever it is. I don’t know who it is. I wish I knew who it was. I just want to say ‘thank you.’”
None of the damage at the churches seemed severe. But churches like Thomas’ have small congregations. Bethel Church has around 40 members.
They’ve started a GoFundMe account to help with the expenses of replacing the doors ridding the church of the smell of smoke.
They’re also praying for all the targeted churches; the arsonist, too.
“The person who did this meant it for evil, burning down the churches. But out of it’s going to come people coming together, churches coming together, congregations coming together. Out of the chaos, out of struggle, out of the problem is going to come strength and unity and victory,” Thomas said.
The reward in the church fire cases now stands at $9,000.
It was still unclear Friday how much of the damage at Bethel insurance would cover, Thomas said. He also hopes to add surveillance cameras and improved outdoor lighting.