TALLADEGA, Ala. – Fire destroyed a church in east Alabama early Tuesday, and investigators were trying to determine what caused the blaze.
Authorities said little remained of Blackberry Lane Community Church aside from charred brick walls. State and federal agents were on the scene of the fire, reported about 2:50 a.m. CDT.
Three college students are jailed on federal charges in a string of fires that damaged or destroyed nine Baptist churches in rural central and west Alabama in early February. A case of suspected arson at a 10th church during the same period remains unsolved.
A spokesman for the state fire marshal's office, Ragan Ingram, said authorities would try to determine whether the fire at the Blackberry Lane church was an accident or something else.
"We're certainly going to investigate everything hard in light of what's been going on," he said. Ingram said it was too early to say whether the fire was a copycat crime linked to the other fires.
Flames gutted the sanctuary of the church, he said, and another section of the building was heavily damaged.
Fire Capt. Ronnie Davis said the church building formerly housed a Baptist congregation but had since been acquired by the nondenominational Blackberry Lane congregation, which has about 100 members. The church is on the city line in a sparesely populated residential area, he said.
Authorities have yet to determine the cause of a suspicious fire that destroyed a church in Blount County on March 24. Ingram said investigators were awaiting test results from the fire at Faith Church of the Nazarene in Hayden, located about 45 miles northwest of Talladega.