Police suspect arson in church, house fires in Harlan County

By: Paige Quiggins Email
By: Paige Quiggins Email

Police in Evarts worked two fires on Friday, Feb. 24. One fire was at a home and another at a church and they think the same person set fire to both places.

Yocum Creek Volunteer Fire Department Chief Roice Wynn said they were called around 11 a.m. for the house fire on Post Office Drive in Harlan County.

“We were working a structure fire about a hundred yards over here and somebody said the church was on fire,” said Wynn.

He and crews from the Yocum Creek, Sunshine, Harlan and Evarts departments traveled to the Black Mountain Missionary Baptist Church to fight the blaze. Wynn said he is a member of the church and thanks to the joined efforts he believed they will be able to worship there again soon.

“There is a lot of damage in the basement, a whole lot of smoke damage but they have companies that can fix that so it should not take a whole lot of time,” said Wynn.
Wynn said an insurance agent would be coming to assess the damage soon.

Police said they believe this is related to the 11 a.m. fire and they do have a suspect in mind. Harlan County Sheriff Marvin Lipfird said he cannot imagine why someone would want to set fire to a church.>

“We have a suspect and I am not going to release the name at this time due to how serious this is,” said Lipfird.

“Harlan is the buckle that holds the bible belt together in my opinion so to me this is extremely serious,” Lipford said.

Lipford said he grew up in the area and he is appalled that someone would do something that has been a part of the area for decades.

“This is just senseless and there is no need for it, this is a historic church in this community, it's absolutely ridiculous, the selfishness,” said Lipfird.

“They are either crazy or full of the devil one,” said Wynn.

Officials said the home was destroyed. No injuries were reported.

Lipfird said Kentucky State Police are assisting the Harlan County Sheriff's Department in the arson investigation and he has notified the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as well. Anyone with information is asked to call police.

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