Updated: Little Rock Church Fire to be Investigated by Federal Officials

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will look into the blaze at First Baptist Church Highland Park on West 18th Street.
Updated (May 1):

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A weekend fire that destroyed a Little Rock church is being investigated by federal officials.

The blaze broke out Sunday morning at First Baptist Church Highland Park on West 18th Street reducing the building to ashes.

Structural damage to the church is estimated at $1.5 million.

Today, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives announced it has activated its National Response Team (NRT) along with special agents from the New Orleans Field Division.

“ATF is investigating the fire jointly with the Little Rock Fire Department, Arkansas State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Arkansas State Police to determine the origin and cause of the fire”, said Phillip Durham, ATF special agent in charge of the New Orleans Field Division. “This is a devastating loss for the community.”

In 1978, ATF developed the NRT to bring its expertise to federal, state and local investigators in meeting the challenges faced at the scenes of significant explosives and arson incidents. The NRT consists of four teams organized geographically to cover the United States. Each team can respond within 24 hours to assist state and local law enforcement/fire service personnel in onsite investigations.

Original story (April 28):
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Many members of the congregation at First Baptist Church Highland Park arrived Sunday morning to learn their church had been destroyed by fire.

The Little Rock Fire Department (LRFD) was called out to 3800 West 18th Street early Sunday morning to reports of a building on fire. The LRFD's Captain Jason Weaver tells FOX16 News that when fire crews arrived they found light smoke coming from the lower floors of the church. They forced opened a door and put out a fire on the lower floor.

When crews backed out of the church they saw flames shooting out the east side of the building from an upper floor. Weaver says the battalion captain pulled back the crews and they went into defensive mode and fought the fire.

The church was a total loss according to Weaver. Most church members didn't know about the fire until they started showing up for Sunday School classes.
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