What a tragedy!
This is all that's left of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St Anthony near Knox. The FBI is investigating the fire, which a church official said was intentionally set. - Photo/Ray Roth, WSBT-TV
The scenario is all too familiar for the Very Rev. Paul Emmick.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Anthony, located at county roads 700 East and 25 North, in Knox burned down Sunday morning -- about a year after an arsonist burned down the Chapel Church of St. John the Baptist, 4275 S. 700 East.
"At that time they attributed it to a juvenile act -- I think this will probably change their minds a little," said Emmick, administrator of St. Anthony's Ukrainian Orthodox Monastery.
"For one thing, it's almost year to date," Emmick said in a phone interview from Somers Point, N.J. "There are 14 buildings they could have burned down. I think this is more than juvenile activity -- I think this is someone going out of their way to burn the churches."
Sunday's fire, still under investigation, caused about $30,000 to $40,000 in damage, said Pam Bright, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security fire and building safety division.
The Chapel Church of St. John the Baptist was burned on June 29, 2004, in broad daylight, Emmick said. The church that burned down Sunday was located four miles from the 47-acre monastery property, which included the Chapel Church of St. John the Baptist and which still includes the Church of the Dormition, Emmick said.
"That's where services are held now -- it's the only place left," Emmick said.
Sunday's fire at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Anthony was reported by a neighbor across the street at 2:30 a.m. Washington Township responded first but could not contain it, Emmick said. Knox then responded, and the fire was out by 5:30 a.m., he said.
An agent was dispatched from the Merrillville FBI office Sunday morning, said Wendy Osborne, special agent with the Indianapolis office of the FBI, headquarters for the state of Indiana.
The FBI is conducting a joint investigation with the Starke County Sheriff's Department, State Fire Marshal's Office, Indiana State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Officials had no new information to report Tuesday concerning the investigation, and no suspects have been named.
Emmick said officials at the scene Sunday gave preliminary indication the fire was caused by an arsonist.
"They said they found a gas can inside the structure," Emmick said.
Osborne said the FBI has jurisdiction to investigate church arsons because they violate a federal law that prohibits anyone from intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying religious property.
Emmick said the fire at the Chapel Church of St. John the Baptist last June was started in the altar area, and an accelerant was found. The investigation for last year's fire was reopened about three months ago, Emmick said.
He said both last year's and this year's fires were disheartening not only because everything was destroyed, but because of one other challenge -- no insurance.
"That's the bad part," he said. "We really haven't recovered from the fire last year with all the collateral damage -- gas lines, electric lines. Now we got this one -- it's a little overwhelming."
He said he doesn't know why the churches have been targeted over the past year.
Emmick is not sure if St. Anthony's Ukrainian Orthodox Monastery will heighten its security, he said.
"It's kind of hard to secure a 47-acre property," he said. "I don't know what increased security we'd take at this point."
Staff writer YaVonda Smalls: