Arrest Made In Church Fire

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

May 5, 2006

Police have made an arrest in connection with a late night fire at the Charlottesville Church of Christ.

Investigators are describing the fire as "suspicious" after finding a broken window in the back of the church. Earlier this morning police arrested 24-year-old Jason Scott Santos of Roanoke for breaking and entering. Police say they believe the Roanoke man has been living in the woods behind the church for the last few days. Although he was arrested for breaking and entering, they have not connect him to the fire.

Rescue workers arrived at the Charlottesville Church of Christ just off 5th Street to find the office part of the building fully engulfed by flames.

"In the beginning we were a little bit concerned that we were going to lose the entire church because of the magnitude of the fire," Chief Charles Werner of Charlottesville Fire Department.

Firefighters were able to isolate the fire and protect part of the structure.

"While as horrific as it was, I'm pleased to see that we didn't have any houses that were ignited and that we didn't lose the sanctuary so that hopefully there's a lot of really the important things still remain for those that worship here," Werner said.

The Sanctuary itself is still standing, but definitely has fire and smoke damage. Charlottesville Police and Fire Marshall worked with ATF Officers to investigate the broken window.

"If you know the nature of church fires that have happened down south, we want to make sure that we do everything right the first time around because these can be unique situations and we want to make sure that we cover all the bases to start," said Werner.

This is compared to a local church fire in the late 70s where law enforcement says there were suspicious circumstances, but nothing was ever proven.

"That was the First Baptist Church that took place over on East Jefferson Street when it caught fire," said Lt. Ronnie Roberts of the Charlottesville Police Department.

Santos was at UVa Hospital for injuries resulting from the Breaking and Entering and has been transported to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

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