KANSAS CITY (AP) — Arson is suspected in a fire that damaged the historic Harlem Baptist Church in Kansas City.
John Ham of the Kansas City office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said that authorities have determined that the blaze was intentionally set, making it a federal crime.
The church serves as a gathering place for the United Christian Fellowship and the congregation is made up mostly of people from the South Sudan.
The fire was discovered about 9:15 a.m. Saturday. Arriving firefighters discovered that the front of the building and an area of stairs going to the basement were fully engulfed in flames. Investigators determined that's where the fire start.
One firefighter had to be rescued after the stairway collapsed. He was not injured. The church suffered heavy fire damage to the front, and smoke and water damage elsewhere.
The church was founded in 1907 and is the last remaining original building of a community known as Harlem.