Fire at South L.A. church ruled arson but church was not target, officials say

One of two fires that broke out early Thursday morning in South L.A. was determined to be arson, but fire officials said the church was not the target.

Firefighters responded to an arson fire inside the Starlight Church of God in the 8500 block of South San Pedro Street at 12:27 a.m., said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott. Flames were found near the front door of a room connected to the church. The fire spread into the room and the church was not damaged.

“The church does not appear to be the target, nor was this fire affiliated with recent church fires in Los Angeles, nor does it appear to be racially motivated,” he said.

The church and a person renting a front room in the building were involved in a dispute, according to Los Angeles police from the 77th Street Division. The fire is under investigation and  no arrests have been made, Scott said.

The LAFD, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded to the fire. The estimated damage is $10,000 to $15,000.

A second fire at the Greater Evangelist Prayer Center less than two miles away was determined to be accidental.

Just after 1 a.m., firefighters responded to reports of smoke coming from the one-story church in the 8300 block of Compton Avenue. When they arrived, firefighters found heavy smoke coming from the attic, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

By 1:16 a.m., the attic fire had been extinguished. There were no injuries, fire officials said. A damage estimate was unavailable.

The cause of the fire has not been determined, but police said L.A. County fire officials have indicated it appears to be accidental and possibly electrical issue.

“Church fires are always a disturbing sight,” police said in a statement. “We at 77th Street want you to know that neither of the morning’s fires appear to be related to each other at all.”

Police said they working closely with LAFD and will monitored “the situation to ensure the safety of our churches and residents.”

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

2:23 p.m.: This story has been updated with comments from the Los Angeles Police Department.

8:29 a.m.: This story has been updated with details about the fire on South San Pedro Street.

This story was first published at 6:54 a.m.

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