Cops Investigate Latest Ala. Church Fire

A suspicious fire did minor damage to the exterior of a small church, but authorities said Monday they don't know whether it was linked to a string of suspected arsons that have damaged or destroyed 10 rural churches in Alabama.

Johnny Chambers, acting chief of the Glencoe Police Department, said members of the joint federal-state task force investigating the cases were still reviewing a blaze that happened early Sunday at Chapman's Chapel.

Like the other ones that burned, the church is small, with fewer than 20 members, and isolated. "You can't see it from the road," said Chambers.

But the church is about 75 miles northeast of the nearest of the previous fires, and the fire began outside the building near the ground. The earlier blazes were started inside, mostly near the pulpit.

Ragan Ingram, a spokesman with the state fire marshal's office, said there was "very minor damage" to the outside of the building. Flames melted a small section of vinyl siding and darkened a larger area.

No arrests have been made in the 10 suspected arsons, although a man described by authorities as being mentally troubled was charged last week in a copycat fire that was set at an abandoned church in east Alabama.

The task force also is still investigating a pair of fires in Tuscaloosa, where a building that houses a Christian-themed apparel business was destroyed Friday night. A small fire damaged a Methodist campus ministry at the University of Alabama the same day.