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St. Louis Arson Investigators Probe Five Church Fires in Ten Days

All five fires have been set near the front doors of the churches, which are within three miles of one another.
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A blaze at a St. Louis church early Saturday morning was the fifth church fire that the St. Louis Fire Department has responded to in the past 10 days, officials said.

Saturday’s fire scorched the front doors of New Life Missionary Baptist Church, said St. Louis Fire Department spokesman Garon Mosby. The church is in the Walnut Park East neighborhood in the city's northwest.

All five church fires have been set by the front doors of the places of worship, said St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson. The fires have led to minimal damage inside of the buildings, and no one has been harmed, Jenkerson told NBC News.

Investigators from the St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting the St. Louis Fire Department and local police departments in an effort determine if all five fires are related, Jenkerson said. The five churches that have been set ablaze are within about three miles of one another, he said.

“We’ve got similarities in how the fires are set, which is what we’re looking at,” Jenkins said. But the fires haven’t all been set at the same time of day, and don’t seem to target specific types of churches. Jenkins said the churches that have been set on fire are of varying denominations and sizes.

The first fire was set at Bethel Non-Denominational Church on Lillian Avenue on Oct. 8, said Brian Schellman, with the St. Louis County Police Department. “The fire damage was minimal and confined to the exterior and underside of the door,” Schellman told NBC News.

The subsequent three fires were set between Oct. 10 and Oct. 14 at New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, St. Augustine Catholic Church and the New Testament Church of Christ, according to The Associated Press.

A picture posted on the Facebook page of New Northside Missionary Baptist Church showed the damage done to their front door. “Someone tried to set our church on fire, but the ONLY fire that's burning is the fire we're having on the inside,” the post said.