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Arson damages south Charlotte’s Providence Baptist church

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

Someone tried to burn down a south Charlotte church late Tuesday or early Wednesday, setting two fires that caused as much as $100,000 in damage, arson investigators said.

“Whatever plan was foiled because apparently it extinguished itself,” said Al Cadenhead, the senior pastor at Providence Baptist Church. “We’re just very fortunate (the church) didn’t burn down. It could have been so much worse.”

No one had been arrested late Wednesday. Investigators haven’t released a suspect description or a motive in the case, and it was unclear who would want to burn down the 2,000-member brick church on Randolph Road near Sharon Amity Road.

Speaking from the parking lot as firefighters went in and out of the church, Chief Fire Investigator Paul Wilkinson said investigators are keeping some specifics to themselves to avoid compromising the investigation.

The fires were started between 10 p.m. Tuesday and 7 a.m. Wednesday, investigators said. The church had been locked Tuesday night, Wilkinson said.

A day care worker who came in around 8 a.m. Wednesday to start on breakfast noticed the smoke and pulled a fire alarm.

When firefighters arrived, they searched through a haze for the source of the fire and found two areas where they were ignited – behind the church’s sanctuary and in a downstairs area that includes offices.

Investigators haven’t said what materials or accelerants were used to start the fires.

The church’s office and day care were operating Wednesday afternoon and planned services went on as scheduled Wednesday night. Wilkinson said the church will be able to use its sanctuary on Sunday.

Investigators encourage anyone who saw something suspicious at the church or who has information about the fire to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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