Seminars on ending church arson set County Fire Department to discuss security steps with congregation leaders

July 18, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

In the wake of the burning of black churches in the South, the Baltimore County Fire Department plans to teach houses of worship how to protect themselves against arsonists.

"Fortunately this problem hasn't crept into Baltimore County, but we want to make sure we are protected," said Battalion Chief Mark F. Hubbard, Fire Department spokesman. "The church leaders also need to understand that if an incident occurs, it will probably become a national story because of all of the attention that has been focused on the fires in the South."

In free seminars that will begin next week, participants will learn about security measures such as installing adequate lighting, trimming bushes, securing flammable liquids, locking windows and doors, and having members drive by often.

County fire officials coordinated the meetings with the federal Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which has been probing the recent rash of church fires.

Members of the county's Fire Investigation Division will present facts about the church burnings, discuss investigation preparations in the county and offer tips on fire protection.

Hubbard said several local churches have asked the department to discuss fire prevention with their congregations.

The seminars offer each institution the opportunity to send two or three members to learn about security measures, he said.

The Rev. Charles Clark, interim pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Middlesex, said his church has taken measures to try to protect itself without giving the impression it was "locking arms around the church building."

"In the location we are in, we try to be vigilant about protection of the property without giving the impression that there is an zTC explosive situation going on," said Clark, whose church has about 250 members. "In the kind of climate we have these days, it's a good idea to use just plain common sense."

Clark, who said he believes the church burnings are the work of copycat arsonists, added, "I think we live in a society that has to some extent lost its way morally and spiritually, and it's unfortunate that it has come to taking such measures. But when there is an angry person with a statement to make, an edifice, especially a religious edifice, becomes a prime target for making that statement."

The seminars -- which run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. -- will be held July 25 at Rosedale Volunteer Fire Company, 8037 Philadelphia Road; July 30 at Cockeysville Volunteer Fire Station, 11210 York Road; and July 31 at Arbutus Volunteer Fire Company, 5200 Southwestern Blvd.

For information, call the Fire Department at 887-4520.

Pub Date: 7/18/96

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