Rockingham County, NC -- Two churches caught on fire two nights in a row. Authorities said one was an arson.
Rockingham County's fire marshal says Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Stokesdale was set on fire Sunday night. Another fire destroyed Gideon Grove United Methodist Church the night before. Both churches are less than four miles apart.
Authorities told News 2's Philip Jones that the arsonist broke a window in the back of the Fellowship Hall at Mt. Zion around 9:30 pm to start the fire. Fortunately, firefighters were able to get there quick enough to contain the flames because a passerby called 911.
The extent of the damage was mostly caused from smoke inside the hall; the sanctuary was untouched. The fire marshal says that it was easy for them to identify the fire as an arson because it was extinguished quickly.
This wasn't the case with the fire at Gideon Grove. The damage was so bad that investigators won't be able to pinpoint a cause, but the fire marshal suspects that it was also intentionally set on fire.
Church members at Mt. Zion will still gather Monday night for their Christmas play.
Sheriff Sam Page has increased the number of deputies patrolling nearby churches. There are several hundred churches across the county and deputies can use your help to identify the arsonist and prevent them from striking again. If you have any information call Rockingham County Crime Stoppers at (336) 349-9683.
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