IFD searches for arsonist after old church burns down on near west side

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INDIANAPOLIS — Fire crews in Indianapolis are investigating an arson that destroyed an old church building.

The large fire took place early Wednesday morning on Indy’s near west side.

Because some of the walls have already collapsed and what’s left standing is obviously not safe, crews are planning to demolish the rest of the building.

At the same time, fire investigators are trying to figure out who is responsible for setting the blaze.

With massive flames rising into the night sky, the family that lives next to the former church quickly evacuated their home.

“We woke up to people banging on the door to let us know the church was on fire.  As soon as we came out, we could feel the intense heat. It was that bad,” said neighbor Carl Strange.

By the time Carl’s family stepped outside, it was obvious the abandoned sanctuary at the corner of New York Street and Elder Avenue was a total loss.

“The fire was huge.  We could feel the heat.  Pretty much the whole building was on fire by the time we came out,” said Strange.

“To see this happen, it just breaks your heart,” said Julie Molloy with The Lord’s Pantry at Anna’s House.

Molloy, who runs a food pantry across the street, claims the church has been vacant for more than a decade. No one considered it to be a nuisance before the fire.

“The church, even though it’s empty, wasn’t bothering anybody in the neighborhood,” said Molloy.

In fact, she believes the church property had recently changed owners, and she had been looking forward to the building one day being reused.

“Our understanding is it recently sold in a tax sale so our hope was they would have built up the neighborhood rather than now have to tear it down,” said Molloy.

While fire crews have ruled the fire was intentionally set, it’s not clear how the blaze started and no suspect information has been released.

No one was hurt, but the fire damaged the side of Strange’s home, and he has a message for the mystery arsonist.

“This is dumb. Think about the people around you, you know,” he said. “It’s kind of crazy to be honest, because if it got into one of the houses with how close they are together, it could have been a lot worse.”

Investigators are asking everyone in the neighborhood that may have doorbell cameras or home surveillance systems to give them a call in the hopes that a suspect or suspects can be identified.

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