Three historically black churches have burned in less than two weeks in one south Louisiana parish in what officials are calling a string of “suspicious” fires.
“There is clearly something happening in this community,” State Fire Marshal H. Browning said in a statement on Thursday. “That is why it is imperative that the citizens of this community be part of our effort to figure out what it is.”
The fires at the three historically black Baptist churches in St. Landry Parish occurred on March 26, Tuesday and Thursday officials said. The parish is located near Baton Rouge.
The three fires occurred on March 26, Tuesday and Thursday in St. Landry Parish, north of Lafayette. A fourth fire, a small blaze that officials said was “intentionally set,” was reported on Sunday at a predominantly black church in Caddo Parish, about a three-hour drive north.
“But just as we haven’t connected the three in St. Landry, we haven’t connected the one in Caddo,” said Ashley Rodrigue, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal, on Friday.
The FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have joined the investigation, Jeff Nowakowski, a spokesman for the ATF’s New Orleans field division, told The New York Times.
“We’re gonna solve this. For the people responsible, the right thing to do would be, come ask for redemption and come forward and let us help you through this process, don’t make us hunt you down, because we will,” said Browning.
Each of the churches was more than 100 years old according to the pastors.
Rev. Harry Richard of Greater Union Baptist Church told The Acadiana Advocate that he didn’t want parishioners to panic.
“I don’t know who’s doing it or why they’re doing it, but I don’t want to be the one to inject race into it,” he said.