2 questioned in Westside church fires

Investigators seek information in other area fires over last few months

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Investigators in Jacksonville are questioning two people they believe may have set a vacant Westside church on fire.

Several small fires were set at the Church of the Epiphany at 103rd Street and Harlow Boulevard over the weekend.

The same church was the scene of a much larger fire last September. It was vacant then as well.

The two people in question have been seen around the area and came Monday morning when a fire was burning. Firefighters said there have been about 12 fires in the area over the last several months, many of them at the same locations, like the church, and they just want to know what's going on. Although, investigators said they don't believe the two people in question were involved in the other fires.

For the last two days, firefighter were called to the Episcopal church after small fires were set at various locations on the property.

A good part of the school at the church was burned in September, and investigators said it was the result of arson.

"We do have two people here that are persons of interest. We are talking to them very seriously," said Lt. Robby Stephens, of the State Fire Marshal's Office.

Even though the church is vacant, people in the area say the building is important to them and they can't believe that this is happening.

"I was confirmed here, I was married here," said Gloria Bangle. "To see these things happening, people doing this to a place like a church -- it's one thing to do it to a home, but when you do it to a church you are insulting God and all of humanity."

Bangle and her husband just want to see somebody caught and held responsible. They're also worried about other fires that have occurred in the neighborhood.

A hotel under construction across the street was set on fire in October, as was a vacant Bennigan's restaurant.

"We've had a lot of fires in this area," Stephens said. "The last thing we want is somebody running around here setting fire. We're concerned about getting people and protecting people and bringing people to justice that need to be brought to justice."

A $5,000 reward is being offered in connection with the arson fires. Anyone with any information is asked to call the 877-NO-ARSON.

Copyright 2014 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.