Authorities continue criminal investigation into fires at African-American churches
OPELOUSAS - Federal fire investigators are spending another night going through the debris of three historically black churches that burned.
All three are likely the result of arson, but the criminal investigation is still pending.
The most recent fire was Thursday morning at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, which is where Deacon Earnest Hines has been a member for more than 40 years.
“Talk about frustrating,” Hines said. “You got a place of worship you've been worshiping in for 40 years and wake up Sunday morning and don't have it any more for no reason."
According to fire investigators, arson is likely the cause of the blaze that destroyed the 140-year-old church and two others in the area. The first burned March 26 in Port Barre, and another church burned in Opelousas earlier in the week.
"You got to have a certain degree of anger, because there's no reason for this,” Hines said.
Now, the prayers among the faithful are for strength and for this not to turn into something else.
“You know the history of our country. During the civil rights struggle, they had all these incidents that would happen and sometimes that happens again,” he added.
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning says all three fires are similar and suspicious. But he says investigators are still working to conclusively determine if they are connected.
“At this point we believe there is some relation, whether its a single person, a single technique, a single method... We're not ready to speak to that yet, but obviously there is a relation to these three fires," Browning said.