'Suspicious' fire rips through historic church in Los Angeles; statues vandalized

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-25 18:00:57-05

LOS ANGELES (KCAL/KCBS/CNN) - Members of Resurrection Church are devastated after a fire broke out in the church's candle room overnight.

On top of that, religious statues out front were knocked over and the face of Jesus was painted green.

Billy Gordon says he saw smoke and flames coming from the Church around 2 a.m. and immediately called 9-1-1.

"My first thought was, ‘I hope there's nobody in there.’ And the second thought was, ‘The statute that's knocked over there, should we try and rescue it?’ It was knocked over on its face and I was like, ‘Maybe we should move this thing. He says, ‘No, don't touch it. It's a crime scene,’" Gordon recalled.

Investigators blocked off a stretch of Opal Street in Boyle Heights so a special task force that handles church crimes can piece together what happened.

Authorities say candles were lit in the room where the fire started but they're designed to safely burn.

They're calling the fire and vandalism suspicious.

"They can burn overnight, but that's per fire code, so at this point, we're looking at other potential causes. And again, due to the vandalism, this is deemed suspicious," Capt. Erik Scott with the Los Angeles Fire Department explained.

Frank Naranjo came to check on the church. He's nervous because he's getting married there in less than 48 hours.

"It's been over seven months of coordination. So, now that we're here and a few hours away, this happens. At this point, we're just in shock we just don't know what's going to happen,"

Fortunately, the fire stayed in the front of the building and the sanctuary itself did not burn.

"Like God says, ‘The church is not the building, The church are we." parishioner Sylvia Manzo said.

A special task force made up of several law enforcement agencies will work together to determine the exact cause of the fire.

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