Gov. Sarah Palin’s home church was badly damaged by arson last Friday evening. Damage to the Wasilla Bible Church was estimated at $1 million, authorities said Saturday. No one was injured in the fire, which was set while a handful of people, including two children, were inside, according to Central Mat-Su Fire Chief James Steele.
The fire was set at the entrance of the church and moved inward as a small group of women were working on crafts, Steele said. The group was alerted to the blaze by a fire alarm.
An accelerant was poured around the exterior of the church before fire heavily damaged the building, federal investigators said Monday. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the accelerant was poured at several locations around the church, including entrances.
Fire authorities were called to the scene at 9:40 p.m., unusually early for many arson fires, Agent Nick Starcevic said.
“It’s kind of odd to do in the evening hours,” he said. “I can tell you that most of the arson fires I’ve worked on are late nighttime, usually when no one is there.”
Gov. Palin, who was not at the church at the time of the fire, stopped by Saturday. Her spokesman, Bill McAllister, said in a statement that Palin told an assistant pastor she was sorry if the fire was connected to the “undeserved negative attention” the church has received since she became the vice presidential candidate Aug. 29. Church members say they thought it was just likely local punks or someone who had a beef with God.
“Whatever the motives of the arsonist, the governor has faith in the scriptural passage that what was intended for evil will in some way be used for good,” McAllister said.
You may have missed this story since it wasn’t covered heavily in the mainstream media. It wasn’t as exciting as shoe tossing reporters in Baghdad or the follow ups to the Governor of Illinois being arrested before he sold Barack Obama’s old Senate seat on eBay. Still, it probably would have been covered more if it had been a black church with women and children inside in the south. Once again, the press has managed to under-impress me.
The damage to the building totals around $1 million. That was damage to the building and not the church because despite the fire, the church went on to have services anyway in a nearby middle school. Church is more than just a building, but the building burned down. The congregation, by the way, are not freaking out. One member, Patsy Inks, says she was initially shocked and frustrated by the news but by Sunday, two days later, she was feeling blessed. “The tragedy has brought us together,” she said.
Authorities don’t know who did this and maybe it is just local punks and I hope it is just local punks, but I can tell you that regardless of the cause, the people of the church and the way they are reacting is inspiring.
As far as I know, the members of this church are not asking for donations to help. They probably won’t. They are not that kind of people. If you want to help this small town recover from the $1million in damages anyway—contact them and ask what you can do to help.
Wasilla Bible Church
1651 West Nicola Avenue
Wasilla, Alaska 99654