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Fire officials say church blaze was arson

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Zoar United Methodist Church

Zoar United Methodist Church

SNELLVILLE — Investigators released surveillance images Friday of a man who may be connected to an overnight arson fire at the Zoar United Methodist Church in Snellville.

Fire investigators believe someone broke in the Zoar Church Road facility after midnight Friday and tried to burn it down.

Fire crews arrived about 12:30 a.m. to find the fire had been doused by the church’s sprinkler system. It caused minimal smoke and water damage to a kitchen near the church’s gymnasium, said Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge.

Later Friday, fire investigators and Agents from the ATF tracked down images of the person of interest, which were taken at a local business prior to the fire. The business asked not to be identified.

The man in the photos is described as white, between ages 18 and 26, wearing torn blue jeans, a dark hooded jacket and a striped shirt.

According to investigators, the fire was deliberately set with the intent to cause significant damage to the structure. The exact motive is not yet known, Rutledge said.

Officials called the fire arson when investigators found evidence that someone had forced entry into the back of the building and intentionally set a fire in the kitchen area, Rutledge said.

Fire investigators are not releasing specific information about the case, but Rutledge said they found signs of slight vandalism inside the gymnasium as well.

No one was at the church when the fire department arrived and no injuries were reported.

Officials ask anyone with information to call the Gwinnett Fire Arson and Explosives Section at 678-518-4890 or the Georgia Arson Hotline at 1-800-282-5804.

Georgia Arson Control Inc. offers a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of arsonists.