Fire officials have determined that a fire that swept through a primarily black church in Charlotte, N.C., early Wednesday was no accident, Reuters reports. The blaze is estimated to have caused more than $250,000 worth of damage at the Briar Creek Baptist Church, according to the Charlotte Fire Department.
“We completed our work on the scene and determined this was intentionally set,” CFD Senior Fire Investigator David Williams told the newswire.
According to Reuters, the department was able to bring the fire under control in a little over an hour, but one firefighter had to be taken to a local hospital, while another was treated at the scene after braving the fire in “extremely hot and humid conditions.”
Williams told the Charlotte Observer that investigators were trying to determine whether the fire is a hate crime. The incident comes a week after the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., that left nine black people, including its pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, dead.
The Observer noted that the Baptist church was predominantly white when its doors opened in 1951 under another name but became a black church as the demographics of the area changed over the years.