The seventh fire in 10 days to break out at a southern Black church may have been caused by lightning, the FBI announced Wednesday.
Officials from the FBI have ruled out arson, CNN reports. The blaze at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville was the latest in a handful of fires to occur after a racist shooting attack on the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston that resulted in the death of nine parishioners.
The latest fire sparked outrage and concern from the Black community, who have historically witnessed attacks on churches by members of the Ku Klux Klan or others motivated by racist ideologies. In fact, 20 years ago, two members of the KKK set fire to Mt. Zion’s original structure. Then-President Bill Clinton attended the dedication of a new structure in 1996, calling for an end to racial terrorism.
But FBI officials said investigators found no indicators of arson at the scene.
About 50 firefighters, local police, the FBI and five agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating. The Sheriff’s Office and state police are also pitching in. “Anytime there is a house of worship involved in a fire, ATF is automatically assigned to look into the cause,” said agency Special Agent Tom Mangan.
Regardless of the cause of Tuesday’s blaze at the church about 65 miles north of Charleston, “it was another punch to the gut” to the community, said former state Rep. Bakari Sellers on CNN Wednesday. “This community has been through so much,” he said, alluding to April 4 shooting death of Walter Scott by a white police officer, who has been charged with murder, and the Charleston church massacre in June. “We are weary,” he said. “We are tired.”
The latest findings come on the heels of a report that about 84 percent of church fires are not intentionally set, the Associated Press reports. Many are not arson or hate crimes, data from the National Fire Protection Association shows.
In fact, between 2001 and 2011, at least 31 church structures burned weekly, but only about five of those were arson. The numbers, however, are not broken down by the predominant race of congregations, making it difficult to pinpoint just how many fires occur at Black or White churches.
SOURCE: CNN, NFPA | VIDEO SOURCE: NDN
Fire At 7th Black Church In 10 Days Sparks Outrage & Concern
5 Black Churches Hit By Fires In Week After Mother Emanuel Attack
20 Pictures That Show The Powerful Resilience Of Charleston's Mother Emanuel AME Church
20 photos Launch gallery
1. Mother Emanuel AME Church held its first service since the shooting death of nine African-American church members on June 17.
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2. People line up to enter for Sunday service at the Emanuel AME Church.
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3. Two children wait to enter the Emanuel AME Church June 21, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.
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4. A member of the church is seen outside of Emanuel AME before its first service since the Charleston shooting.
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5. A Charleston County sheriff's deputy checks bags as people line up to enter for Sunday service at the Emanuel AME Church.
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6. Gloria Moore watches the church as parishioners take their seats at the Emanuel AME Church.
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7. A woman prays as she attends the Sunday service outside of the Emanuel AME Church.
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8. People pray and listen to the Sunday service outside of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
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9. Parishioners sit at Emanuel AME Church four days after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others.
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10. The Rev. Norvel Goff, right, prays at the empty seat of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
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11. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C., embraces U.S. Sen Tim Scott, R-S.C., at Emanuel AME Church.
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12. A parishioner prays at the empty seat of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney at the Emanuel AME Church.
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13. The congregation departs following Sunday services at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
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14. A family is seen leaving Emanuel AME Church following Sunday services.
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15. People embrace as they depart the Emanuel AME Church following Sunday services.
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16. Church members comfort one another after Emanuel's first service since the Charleston shooting.
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17. Church members comfort one another outside of Emanuel.
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18. A mother and son surround a memorial for the nine church members killed during the Charleston shooting.
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19. Charleston natives comfort each other during the church's first service since the shooting on June 17.
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20. Activist DeRay McKesson is seen outside of Emanuel AME church.
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