Fire Investigators Believe Arson Cause Of Tulsa Church Building Fire

Thursday, February 20th 2014, 5:46 pm
By: Craig Day

Fire investigators are urging anyone with information that leads to three kids suspected of setting a vacant church on fire, to call the arson hotline, 918-596-ARSN or 918-596-2776.

Three kids were seen running from the church. Firefighters say, what those kids likely thought was just a prank, could have had a tragic end.

A day after a fire burned through the roof of the Bowen Baptist Church; crews contracted by the city, were securing the building to try to prevent anyone from getting inside.

A 40 to 50 foot section of the roof on the more than 70-year-old church burned on Wednesday.

2/19/2014 Related Story: 75-Year-Old-Church Building Burns Near Downtown Tulsa

Captain Stan May with the Tulsa Fire Department, said, "Which helps support that front wall, so it's weakened that front wall, makes a pretty dangerous situation."

Once fire marshals finish their investigation, the city will make contact with the owner of the church to find out what plans they have for the building; whether they'll rehabilitate or demolish it.

While city code enforcement says it's too early to know if the building can be saved, investigators quickly determined how the fire started.

"It didn't take investigators but a few minutes to determine it was arson," May explained.

The fire started in the southwest corner of the building, but because of the ongoing case, investigators won't say what was used to start it.

"We had two or three witnesses who said there were kids taking off from there just as the fire started," May said.

May also said two of those kids are believed to be eight to ten years old, the third, about 15.

"We're still interviewing folks in the area and we're looking for some tips on who these juveniles might be, so we can get this kind of activity stopped," said May.

He said even though the church was vacant, the fire could have been tragic, because of the potential for transients to be inside.

"We're still in the winter season; the chance of someone breaking in there just to stay warm is pretty high," May said.

While the city works to secure the building, if the owners decide to rehab the church, it will have to be done quickly.

"The roof structure off on that one end, it will go downhill pretty fast, so they'll have to do something with it," May said.

If the owners don't take necessary steps to rehab or demolish the building, the city would go through formal steps to demolish it at an estimated cost of about $90,000.

A lien would be placed against the property for the city to recover those costs.