Two black Baptist churches in St. Landry Parish, Louisana have burned in the past week — and federal and state authorities are investigating whether the blazes are connected.
Baton Rouge’s Advocate newspaper reported that the fire that destroyed Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas on Tuesday morning came after a March 26 fire at St. Mary Baptist Church in the nearby town of Port Barre.
Rev. Harry Richard, who’d served as pastor of Greater Union for 16 years, said he got a call around 2:15 AM on Tuesday and arrived soon after to find the entire church engulfed in flame. The rubble from the fire continued to smoke long into the morning, the report noted.
“At that moment I felt like there was no hope,” Rev. Richard told The Advocate.
Both the Louisiana State Fire Marshal and officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating the fires and told the newspaper that it’s too early to tell whether the fires were connected.
A spokesperson with the fire marshal’s office said that ATF always gets involved when fires break out at religious buildings or institutions.
According to The Advocate‘s report six days ago about the St. Mary church fire, the call came in around 2:30 AM — roughly the same time that Rev. Richard was called less than a week later about the blaze at his church located just fifteen minutes away.
You can watch an interview with the Greater Union reverend and see footage of the Opelousas fire and its aftermath below, via the city’s Daily World newspaper.