LAPD Investigating Arson After Century-Old Church Catches Fire - Twice

Emma Campbell | June 5, 2023
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Investigators are looking into the possibility of arson after a fire struck a 100-year-old church in Los Angeles for the second time in less than two years.

Fire broke out just before 7:00 p.m. Saturday at St. John’s United Methodist Church in the Watts neighborhood. The blaze began in the sanctuary and spread to the balcony before it was contained, according to a statement from the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD). It took
32 firefighters approximately 20 minutes to extinguish the flames, and no injuries were reported. 

The fire occurred as the church was still being renovated from damage caused by another fire in February of 2022, and worship services have been held in the parking lot since then. The church’s Facebook page highlights its “97 years of ministry in the Watts community,” and its
website shows many of the church’s community outreach efforts, including a food bank and clothes closet for those in need. The church has been collecting donations to fund its restoration since the original fire, according to the church website.

Related: LA Police Investigating 'Hate Crime' After Finding a Burnt Pride Flag

According to LAFD fire officials, an arson investigation is standard procedure whenever a fire happens at a house of worship.

“It’s obviously a priority being a house of worship,” Brian Humphrey, a spokesperson for LAFD, told the Los Angeles Times. “The only thing that takes greater priority are fatal fires.”

St. John’s is a United Methodist Church, a denomination of Christianity that has seen more churches split from its doctrine in recent years due in large part to its beliefs about LGBTQ rights.

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