Arizona Episcopal church on U.S.-Mexico border destroyed by fire

Flames burn through the roof of St. Stephen’s Church in Douglas Ariz. Photo/Brad Munroe

By Melodie Woerman

Episcopal News Service

Editor’s note: A suspect was arrested and charged with arson on May 24 in connection to the fires. 

A late morning fire destroyed St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Douglas, Arizona, on May 22. A church-owned house next door also was destroyed. First Presbyterian Church, next door to the church house, also suffered severe fire damage. No one was injured. The cause of the blazes that hit both buildings remains under investigation, Arizona Bishop Jennifer Reddall told Episcopal News Service on May 23.

The fire at St. Stephen’s was discovered at about 11 a.m. Mountain Time on May 22, with flames visible both in the church and the church house. Minutes later, observers noticed that the Presbyterian church also was on fire. The co-minister of First Presbyterian, the Rev. Peggy Christiansen, told a Tucson TV station that the two fires appear to have begun separately. “As the day went on, we were told [our] fire did not start from the Episcopal church. But rather, it was an independent fire. Somehow our fire started inside our church, and theirs started in theirs,” she said.

The Rev. John Caleb Collins, vicar of St. Stephen’s, leads a prayer on the evening of the fire across the street from the burned church. Photo/Jennifer Reddall

In a May 23 email to the diocese, Reddall said local police and fire officials and representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, began investigating the evening of the fire.

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To read coverage by The Living Church, click here.