Church fire at Outreach Community Church in Chicago's Hermosa neighborhood possibly suspicious

November 9, 2013 (CHICAGO)

It will be some time before officials can pinpoint with certainty exactly what caused the fire, but a canine unit with the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which investigates all church fires, were able to detect traces of accelerant in different parts of the building.

"It's someone that's sick, that needs God. They do not have God," said church member Christine Owens.

Investigators are not yet confirming with absolute certainty that the early Saturday morning fire that destroyed the inside of the Northwest Side church was arson, but a spokesperson for the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms calls the fire at Outreach Community Church very suspicious.

"There is extensive damage to the interior of the church," said Tom Ahern, ATF. "There appears to be multiple points of origin, not only on the second floor but in the main sanctuary of the church."

According to the fire department, the 911 call came in just before 3:30 Saturday morning. The fire spread quickly and caused a great deal of damage inside.

"About an hour before the fire trucks came we heard some explosions like boom boom. Like 5 or 8 p.m. We didn't know if it was coming from here," said resident Inez Gomez.

The surrounding community is already rallying around the church. Gabriel Lugaro brought coffee and comfort to the members. His own church also suffered a fire not so long ago.

"We know how it feels for the church to be missed," he said. "We're here for the community and we're here for one another."

The pastor at Outreach Community Church has so far preferred not to comment, but Deacon Sam Jones told us earlier, the congregants won't let this tragedy break their spirit.

"We're still going to praise god because god is still good," Jones said. "I don't know if we have to go on the sidewalk we're still going to give him the praises."

The fire comes a day after somebody threw bricks through the front door of the church, but so far investigators said they are not sure that incident is related to the fire.

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