Fire destroys building at St. Joseph in Fullerton, Easter services go on

Church says blaze was arson; official cause remains under investigation

March 31, 2013|By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun

An early-morning fire on Saturday destroyed a maintenance building on the property of St. Joseph Church in Fullerton, according to church and county fire officials.

But church officials said the parish's celebration of Easter services on Sunday would not be affected by the incident.

Church officials, in a statement on the church website, said the blaze was the result of arson, though county fire officials have not given an official cause.

Emergency units were dispatched at 3:25 a.m. and arrived at the church in the 8400 block of Bel Air Road about 3:30 a.m. to find the building in flames, said Lt. Julia Dillard, a county fire spokeswoman.

Because of gasoline and other fuels in the building, firefighters exited the building at 3:40 a.m. and a hazardous materials crew was called to assist.

"With no life risk there was no need to do interior operations," Dillard said.

"Flames were leaping a hundred feet in the air by the time Baltimore County Fire units arrived," the church statement read. "God bless the driver on Belair Road who notified 911 that flames were observed on our property."

The bulk of the fire was under control by 4:50 a.m., and it was completely under control just after 6 a.m., Dillard said.

The church statement said the maintenance building, located near an athletic field and parking lot, "caught fire when the spot-a-pot was purposely set on fire," and said the "fire investigator has ruled this arson."

Dillard said she did not know where the church had gotten its information, and no official ruling has been made as to the cause of the blaze.

"From our perspective the fire is still under investigation, and we have not released an official cause," she said.

The church statement said the building and its contents "have been deemed a total loss," and that church officials are working with the Archdiocese of Baltimore to assess the damages.

The church has been working with restoration crews to "contain and fence the area, take care of environmental concerns, shore up walls, and begin evaluations," the statement said.

On Sunday morning, officials said the church's full slate of Easter services, at 7:30, 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m., would go on as scheduled.

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