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Fire destroys Korean church in Anchorage; arson alleged

Fire department investigators say a blaze that destroyed the Mountain View church in Anchorage, Alaska, was started by individuals who splashed a flammable liquid inside the building, then lit it.

Spokesman Tom Kempton told the Anchorage Daily News that an accelerant-detecting dog sniffed the combustible out.

“When (investigators) weren’t able to find any kind of obvious cause they brought the dog in and it was able to detect accelerant in three locations,” Kempton said.

The locations were on the southwest side of the building, near an entrance, although there was no sign of forced entry, he said.

Members of the Mountain View church in Anchorage, Alaska, weresurprised Sunday morning when they arrived for morning services todiscover a smoke-damaged building.
The single-story, wood-frame church caught fire around 4 a.m. Sunday, about 12 hours after members had last been in the building, according to the Anchorage Fire Department.
The church’s roof collapsed, and extensive smoke damage occurred throughout the interior, Kempton said.
“At first we were really worried,” said John Kim, minister for the 40-member Korean church. But after finding out that the church’s fire insurance would help repair or replace the building, Kim reported that church members “are feeling okay now.”
Before morning worship, Kim notified elders at the Anchorage church what had happened.  The Korean church met at the Anchorage church building for 15 years prior to buying its own property a few years ago.
The elders told Kim and the Korean members that they were welcome to use their building for services on Sunday evenings, according to Connie Webb, Anchorage administrative secretary. Elders also told the congregation Sunday morning that they didn’t know yet how much or what kind of assistance would be needed for Mountain View members.
The building, deemed a total loss, was valued at $225,000.
According to the Daily News, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is alsoinvestigating the fire. Investigators have found no evidence that thearson was the result of a hate crime, but they are looking into thepossibility.

“With a fire at anychurch, it’s one of our highest priorities and we will take it intoaccount,” said Brad Earman, resident agent in charge of the ATF inAlaska. “That will definitely be a part of our investigation.” 

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