Pennsylvania Church Burns for the Second Time in One Week

Pennsylvania Church Burns for the Second Time in One Week
CBS Philly/YouTube

The Iglesia Pentecostal Church de Bethlehem in Pennsylvania burned for the second time on Thursday — after the first was determined arson.

Another “heartbreaking” blaze consumed the church roof in the wee hours of Thursday morning. “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,” church leader and pastor’s daughter Nitza Colon told CNN affiliate WFMZ. “I said ‘who would do such a thing, I mean what else can they burn in the building?'”

The previous fire began just two days before, early Tuesday morning, in the church’s sanctuary. After a brief investigation, the Bethlehem city fire marshal determined that it was deliberately started. The motive, however, remains unclear.

Wilmer J. Ortiz Torres, 43, — a former member of the parish — was arrested Friday for arson, burglary, and trespassing, according to WFMZ. Bethlehem police chief Mark DiLuzio said that Torres may have had personal issues with the church.

No injuries were reported, and the second fire burned itself out before firefighters could arrive to extinguish it.

A police statement confirmed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) would be assisting with the investigation and had offered a $5,000 reward for information before an arrest had been made.

WFMZ reported, “It appears to be an isolated incident and police do not believe there is an ongoing danger to the community.”

As the investigation and repairs continue, First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem will offer congregants a space to worship.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.