Series of arsons in Energy & Herrin, including church fire, under investigation; person of interest in custody
ENERGY, Ill. (KFVS) - The Illinois State Fire Marshal is investigating a series of fires considered arson in Williamson County.
According to Energy Police Chief Shawn Ladd, a series of arsons were set in Energy and Herrin early Friday morning, May 26.
Chief Ladd said all of the fires were minor except for the fire at the United Methodist Church on West Read Street in Energy.
He said the church is destroyed.
Ladd also stated a person of interest is in custody and the State Fire Marshal is on the scene.
Gary Billiot has been the pastor at Energy United Methodist Church for more than 10 years. Billiot said that he can’t believe what happened.
“Oh I just can’t hardly take it you know, gee whiz there’s a lot of memories inside that church,” said Billiot.
When Billiot first learned about the fire, he said he rushed the house of worship.
“I really didn’t think it was going to be this bad, I thought maybe a small fire and then they put the fire out but when I saw it, it just broke my heart,” said Billiot.
Billiot said he and his congregation made plenty of memories inside the building which stood for more than 100 years.
“When I first met the people, they were so welcoming and they welcomed me like I belonged here,” said Billiot.
According to Herrin Fire Chief Shawn Priddy, the church is a total loss.
“It’s going to continue to smolder for a little while, we’re hoping most of it collapses in on itself. It’s too unstable for us to get inside and actually try and deal with some of the hotspots. But yeah it’s probably going to smoke for a little while,” said Priddy.
The Herrin Fire Department spent five hours at the scene this morning. Meanwhile, Billiot said what his congregations needs now is thoughts and prayers.
“This is our place to worship and we can’t worship anymore, not in this place anyway. It’s not the end for us, because we have faith in god,” said Billiot.
Billiot said many local churches have offered them a place to worship. He said the congregation will be meeting this Sunday for service at a private residence.
No other details are be released at this time. An investigation is ongoing.
In addition to the Energy Police and Fire Departments, members of the Herrin Police Department, Herrin Fire Department, Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, Illinois State Police, Marion Fire Department, Carterville Fire Department, Williamson County Fire Protection District and United Ambulance Service assisted at the scene.
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