‘Highly suspected’ fire in Black Church in Massachusetts is being investigated as arson

An “extremely suspicious” overnight fire in a black church in Springfield, Massachusetts, is being investigated by local and federal authorities on Monday.

Firefighters responded to a call at Martin Luther King Jr., Community Presbyterian Church, around 5 a.m. Monday morning, according to Springfield Fire Commissioner Bernard Calvi. It took about an hour to put out the fire and leave the church ‘unusable’ due to the damage.

“It’s very suspicious,” Calvi said. “In the last three weeks, there have been three other fires in this common area.”

Firefighters are working to eliminate possible accidental causes, while Springfield police and FBI investigators are popping up the area for any possible clues from witnesses in the area. The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco and Massachusetts State Police Arson and Bomb Squad are also assisting with the investigation.

“It’s a church that burned at night, so it’s a potential hate crime,” Calvi said Monday.

The church was founded in 1979 and is currently led by Reverend Dr. Terrlyn L. Curry Avery, according to its website. Ronn Johnson, with Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Services, told the NBC-affiliated WWLP that the roof of the church was recently replaced by a fundraising campaign by the congregation.

Authorities are asking anyone with details of the fire to contact the fire department at 800-682-9229, with a $ 5,000 reward offered for information leading to the cause of the fire.