Church fire determined to be arson - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Church fire determined to be arson

Picture of the damage to the church. (Source: WMC Action News 5) Picture of the damage to the church. (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: Chopper 5) (SOURCE: Chopper 5)

New Salem Fellowship Ministries caught fire Wednesday night, the day after they had their weekly Bible study.

Pastor Antonio Mattox said he believed someone set the fire intentionally.

Memphis Fire Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and Federal Bureau of Investigation are all investigating the fire. The pastor said the fire started outside of the church near his office.

Memphis Fire Department said the fire has been ruled arson and is currently under investigation.

MFD said the fire started in the rear stairwell.

"We need a lot of prayer right now," church member Lisa Prayer said. "I couldn't believe it. I was like, 'are you serious?'"

The pastor said he is devastated.

"I don't have any idea who would do this and I wouldn't know why they would do it," Mattox said.

The church sustained smoke and water damage. No word yet as to the extent of the damage.

Mattox has been the pastor of the church for 22 years and said he has worked hard to grow the church.

"Just evil, evil," Mattox said.

"We just put in new chairs. It's just been renovated because someone came and took from us," first lady of the church Renita Mattox said. "We were happy with the progress we're taking, so for it to be where we are now, and it just took place a few months ago. It's very upsetting."

The pastor said they will move forward from this.

"There's no way that you can do wrong. That right will follow you," Mattox said. 

Mattox said it is too early to determine a location of church services for Sunday, but he said there will be service somewhere, possibly in the church if they can make repairs inside before the weekend.

MFD said the fire caused a total damage of $30,000. 

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