Fire breaks out for the 2nd time this week at Pennsylvania church

The first blaze was ruled arson

By Madeline Holcombe and Janet DiGiacomo, CNN
WFMZ via CNN

The Pentecostal Church of Bethlehem was set on fire for the second time in two days on Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

(CNN) - Police have made an arrest in connection with the two blazes that burned through the Pentecostal Church of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania.

Wilmer Ortiz Torres , 43, has been charged with arson, burglary and criminal trespass, Bethlehem police said in a statement.

The first fire, which broke out April 23, built a thick, black smoke cloud around the building, but had burned out by the time authorities arrived. It was ruled arson by the Bethlehem city fire marshal.

The motive was unclear, according to a statement from the Bethlehem police, but the fire appeared to have been started in the sanctuary area of the church.

Then, just two days later, firefighters were at the church again, extinguishing a blaze which was contained to the roof of the structure, right above the sanctuary area, the police statement said.

"It was heartbreaking and really sad that this would happen for the second time and I said who would do such a thing, I mean what else can they burn in the building?" said Nitza Colon, church leader and daughter of the church's pastor, who spoke to CNN affiliate WFMZ in Allentown.

"They already burned what we love so much, the inside, you know so what else I guess until they see it to the ground. I guess they won't let it go."

Again, the cause of the fire was ruled arson.

"It appears that an individual had climbed up onto the roof and intentionally set the fire utilizing some type of accelerant," police said in their statement.

Police collaborated with Bethlehem Fire Investigators and agents from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) until they eventually found a suspect.

"This was a result of joint cooperation, technology and good old fashion police work," the statement said.

CNN's Joe Sutton and Patrick Cornell contributed to this report.

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