Palin’s Church Is Badly Damaged by Arson
ANCHORAGE (AP) — Gov. Sarah Palin’s home church was badly damaged by arson, leading Ms. Palin to apologize if the fire was connected to “undeserved negative attention” the church received during her campaign as the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
Damage to Wasilla Bible Church was estimated at $1 million, the authorities said Saturday. No one was injured in the fire, which was set Friday night while a few people were inside, said the Central Mat-Su fire chief, James Steele.
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Chief Steele said the blaze was being investigated as an arson but said he did not know of any recent threats to the church, which has 1,000 members.
Arson suspected in fire at Palin’s church
WASILLA – A Friday night fire at Gov. Sarah Palin’s church caused an estimated $1 million in damage, and investigators say it could be the work of an arsonist.
Firefighters were called to Wasilla Bible Church about 9:40 p.m. and found flames and smoke coming out windows at the back of the three-story structure, said James Steele, chief of the Central Mat-Su Fire Department.
Five women, and possibly a couple of children, were inside the church working on crafts, but everyone got out safely after a fire alarm alerted them to trouble, Steele said.
Steele declined to say why investigators believe the fire might have been set deliberately, or whether accelerants were found on the scene.
Nothing thus far suggests any political motivation for the fire, the chief said.
The building is worth between $4 million and $5 million, and sustained an estimated $1 million in damage, he said.
A task force has been formed to investigate, including people from the state fire marshal’s office, the Central Mat-Su Fire Department, the Wasilla Police Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Anchorage Fire Department also sent out an investigator.
The church, located off the Parks Highway on the west end of town, is one of the biggest in the Valley with typical Sunday services drawing around 1,000 people. Several well-known Valley residents attend the church, including Palin and state Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla.
Palin’s office issued this statement Saturday:
“Gov. Palin stopped by the church this morning, and she told an assistant pastor that she apologizes if the incident is in any way connected to the undeserved negative attention the church has received since she became a vice-presidential candidate on Aug. 29. Whatever the motives of the arsonist, the governor has faith in the scriptural passage that what was intended for evil will in some way be used for good.”
Bill McAllister, the governor’s media spokesman, said he wasn’t sure when Palin last attended the church. He said she would not attend services this morning because she’s traveling to Juneau, where she will release next year’s proposed state budget on Monday. But the governor’s children do plan to go to church, he said.
Asked if Palin is a member of Wasilla Bible Church, [Pastor Larry] Kroon said it’s just one of the churches she attends. He declined to say how often she attends, or when she last came.
The pastor also declined to say whether the church has received any recent threats, or to speculate whether the fire was politically motivated or directed at Palin, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully as John McCain’s vice presidential running mate.