Historic chapel set ablaze in Georgia, US officials seek arsonist

1/11/2021 UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting that inspectors have confirmed the fire was intentionally set.

Jeff Turner

Authorities in the US say a fire at an historic chapel in Georgia was intentionally set.

A spokesperson for the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office said emergency crews were called to the Smith Chapel Church in Bowdon, Georgia around 12 p.m. Monday. The church building was fully engulfed in flame when the first emergency worker arrived.

“We believe at this point the fire was intentionally set and we are asking anyone who was in the area and may have witnessed anything unusual between 10 am and 2 pm to contact Investigator Brandon Wiggins,” said the spokesperson.

The sheriff’s office as of Tuesday afternoon has not determined a motive for the crime.

Historic Rural Churches is an organization that seeks to document and preserve historic church buildings.  Its website says the chapel has stood since 1851.

US offers $50K reward in church arson

Officials in the US are offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person (or persons) who burned a church building.

A press release from the Federal Bureau of Investigation says the arson attack happened Sept. 17, 2020 at St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco.

“This act of violence was not just an attack on a building, but on a congregation. This was an attack on a community,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair. “We are counting on assistance from members of the community to keep our city safe. Every lead will be thoroughly investigated. Regardless of how insignificant you think your information might be, we strongly encourage you to come forward and we welcome your information and assistance.”

The FBI has jurisdiction to investigate fires set at houses of worship under the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for those who wish to donate to the church.