SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Authorities have arrested an arson suspect after a pair of fires at churches in south Sacramento early Wednesday morning.
The first fire happened at the Missionary Baptist Church along the 3900 block of 14th Avenue just after midnight, the Sacramento Fire Department says. That fire was small and quickly extinguished.
“There was inside our church library then also in our church administration reception area,” Lamont Harris, a church administrative assistant with Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church, said.
Structure fire on the 4700 Block of 16th Ave. Rpt@ 12:27AM. This was a church fire. It took crews around 30 minutes to extinguish. 1 firefighter was transported for moderate burns. A separate small fire occurred at a different church on the 3900 Block of 14th Ave just before this pic.twitter.com/vodowsdeak
— Sacramento Fire (@SacFirePIO) January 29, 2020
However, firefighters say the building’s fire suppression system did cause severe water damage to the church.
“Hopefully It wasn’t negative or bad intentions towards our pastor and taking it out in that manner. Hoping whoever it might be, they obviously need some help,” Harris said.
A little later, firefighters then responded to a fire at another church less than a mile away along the 4700 block of 16th Avenue.
“The sanctuary may need to be gutted. It’s pretty severe damage. We’re probably going to have to take the roof off,” Pastor Don Patterson of Central International Fellowship, said.
It took firefighters about 30 minutes to extinguish this second fire, firefighters say. Further, one firefighter suffered moderate burns in this incident.
Witnesses reported seeing a man running away from the scene when firefighters showed up.
A little while later, arson investigators were able to arrest a suspect allegedly connected to both incidents.
The suspect has been identified as 61-year-old Weun Luang Lee. He is facing two counts of arson, and two hate crimes according to a spokesperson with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.
Both of these churches may be picking up the pieces emotionally and physically after these fires. They also share an understanding of forgiveness.
“Absolutely I can find it in my heart to forgive the person who did it and if there’s help that they need with their life hopefully they get it,” Harris said.
“This is just a facility. It’s not the church. The church is the people. And the people are okay. That’s what matters,” Patterson said.