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ATF joins state police probe into arson at Indiana County church |

ATF joins state police probe into arson at Indiana County church

Paul Peirce

Federal agents have joined state police fire marshals to investigate an arson early Tuesday that destroyed a church in rural Indiana County.

Investigators, including agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are seeking information from anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the vicinity of the Harmony Grove Lutheran Church on Five Points Road in Washington Township, state police spokesman Trooper Cliff Greenfield said. The fire was reported about 4 a.m., when flames were already through the roof.

Trooper Chet Bell, a state police fire marshal in Greensburg, reported the fire was intentionally set in two separate areas — the center of the basement and on the first floor, near the altar. One firefighter suffered a minor injury fighting the church fire, he said.

Cody Hitching, chief of the Creekside Volunteer Fire Department which battled the blaze, reported on social media that the department has responded to several intentionally set fires in the area in recent months. He urged the public to report suspicious activities to state police.

“We cannot specify with the exception of the Harmony Grove Church fire that has been confirmed (an) arson, but there has been a rash of unoccupied or abandoned barns and buildings that have burned in the last few months,” Hitching said. “Please be vigilant, and if something looks out of place or you see someone doing something suspicious please do not ignore it. Call the state police. It may be the difference in saving someone’s life.”

State police are interested in any information about the church fire or other recent fires in northern Indiana County, Greenfield said.

“Even something you think may be insignificant could be a critical piece of evidence that would greatly assist us in this ongoing, active investigation,” Greenfield said.

State police can be reached at 724-357-1960.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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