The state fire marshal’s office is offering a reward for information in a blaze that destroyed a Jefferson church’s parsonage and two vans.
Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine announced Thursday afternoon that he is seeking information from the public about the blaze that destroyed a parsonage and two, 12-passenger vans at Faith Baptist Church.
Rewards of up to $10,000 are given for information leading to the arrest and conviction of an arsonist. The hotline number is 1-800-282-5804. Calls are taken 24 hours a day and callers may remain anonymous.
A spokesperson for Oxendine’s office said the fire appears suspicious, but investigators haven’t determined a cause. State investigators are asking for any additional information about the blaze.
“That’s something we typically do to remind people that the hotline is out there, in case people have any information about the fire,” said Wayne Whitaker of the state insurance and safety fire commissioner’s office.
Around 1 a.m. on Thursday, a blaze was reported Faith Baptist Church’s former parsonage — which at one time was used as a residence for the church’s pastor. The 3,000 square-foot building is located next to the sanctuary on U.S. Hwy. 129.
The blaze caused significant damage to the building and destroyed two church vans parked in the carport, according to Mark Duke of the Jefferson Fire Department.
“We got there and nobody was there, so nobody was hurt or injured,” he said.
The heavy-involved fire was quickly extinguished, but firefighters didn’t finish their work on the scene until about 6 a.m., Duke said.
The fire department asked the state’s fire marshal office — which typically investigates fires on church properties — to investigate, he added.
Oxendine estimated the destroyed parsonage and vans were valued at a total $100,000 and were a total loss, he said in a statement.
Firefighters from Jefferson, North Jackson, Harrisburg and the Jackson County Correctional Institute responded to the incident.
Dr. Keith Cudd, pastor of Faith Baptist Church, said the building was used as a mission house to welcome visiting missionaries or special guest speakers. A missionary family from North Carolina was slated to stay in the house this weekend.
“We plan to rebuild once everything gets settled with the insurance company,” he said Thursday afternoon.
The two vans parked in the carport were the church’s only vehicles, Cudd said.
Just hours after the blaze, the church had already received plenty of prayers and support.
“We’ve had a lot of folks — other pastors and other churches — that have expressed anything they can do to help, and of course, that they would be praying for our church and our church family,” Cudd said.
The last time a pastor at Faith Baptist Church lived in the house was 2004, he added. The basement was used for storage.