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Palin’s church targeted by arsonist

WASILLA, Alaska (BP)–The arsonist who tried to set fire to Wasilla Bible Church — the home congregation of former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — placed accelerants at building exits and almost certainly knew people were in the building at the time.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found accelerants in several locations outside the church building, including doorways, ATF spokesman Nick Starcevic told the Anchorage Daily News. Five people, including two children, were inside Dec. 12 when the fire was set just before 9:40 p.m., and a half-dozen cars were in the parking lot at the time, according to the congregation’s senior pastor, Larry Kroon.

The building’s occupants all escaped unharmed and the most serious damage was limited to a back corner of the church where offices and a classroom were located. The blaze caused an estimated $1 million in damage to the two-year-old building, which is valued at upwards of $4 million, according to news reports.

Members of the congregation gathered Dec. 14 at Wasilla Middle School to hear Kroon preach from 1 Corinthians 13:13 — “After the Fire: Faith, Hope, & Love,” according to the church’s website. Palin did not attend because she was in the capital making last-minute preparations to unveil the state’s proposed 2009 budget, but her husband Todd and their children did attend, a church elder told reporters.

Palin did visit the fire-damaged building Dec. 13, according to the Anchorage Daily News. A spokesman issued a statement saying Palin was sorry if the fire was connected to “undeserved negative attention” it received after she was named John McCain’s vice presidential running mate in August.

The ATF spokesman said it was unclear what type of accelerant had been used in the crime, but samples had been sent to the state crime lab in Anchorage for testing. Wasilla police said authorities had no suspects or motive at this point. Kroon told reporters he did not recall the church receiving any threats.

Church members hope to have the less-damaged areas of the building cleaned up and declared safe so activities can resume there early next year, the elder told reporters.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.

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