MARYLAND

Arson damages Potomac Heights Baptist Church

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Fire officials say a fire that caused $80,000 in damage to a Charles County church was intentionally set.

The blaze was reported about 6:30 a.m. in the Potomac Heights Baptist Church. An employee arriving for work saw smoke coming from the building. By the time firefighters arrived, the fire had burned itself out.

“If it's something that we caused or somebody it upset at us or if there is some reason that somebody would want to hurt us then that is troubling,” says Jason Ferrell, pastor of the Potomac Heights Church.

Investigators say accelerants were poured inside the church through a broken window in the sanctuary and ignited.

The fire damaged carpeting, upholstered chairs and the interior wall.

Inside the church, air purifiers strain to remove the stench of smoke. A clean-up crew scrubs soot from walls and church leaders and parishioners struggle with someone intentionally setting a fire, just feet from the alter.

“Of all the places to be at a church,” parishioner Rani Knight says. “We have enough problems everywhere in this world. It's awful.”

The church runs a K-8 academy. Smoke damage in their regular classrooms and soot clogged computers have students and teacher using alternate spaces.

It will take days possibly weeks for things to get back to normal here, church officials consider themselves lucky.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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