Officials: Arson suspected in Duluth church fire

DULUTH - Fire officials have confirmed that an arsonist tried to burn down a new, multi-million dollar Korean church in Duluth sometime early this morning.

Damage to the Zion Korean United Methodist Church of Atlanta at 3258 Ga. Highway 120 is minimal, officials said.

The church's senior pastor was alerted to smoke in the building by an alarm company about 5 a.m. The pastor called 911, and the blaze had been doused by a sprinkler system by the time fire crews arrived, said Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge. It caused minimal damage to the church's sanctuary, he said.

Officials have ruled that the fire was intentionally set. Blasphemous graffiti scarred stacked stone and doors at the rear of the church. A church official said it doesn't appear anything was stolen.

Rutledge confirmed the fire is the third at the church in about 10 months, the latest coming in February.

"All three are being investigated as acts of arson and are believed to be related," Rutledge said.

The church is in the final stages of construction and was slated to officially open for services Saturday.

The church was closed at the time of the fire, and church officials said and no one should have been on the property.

Georgia Arson Control Inc. is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction in the case. Rutledge urged anyone with information to contact the Georgia Arson Control Hotline at 800-282-5804 or Gwinnett County Fire Department investigators at 678-518-4890.