Rusk County's proactive approach to prevent church fires - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Rusk County's proactive approach to prevent church fires

By LaKecia Shockley - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

RUSK COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The arsons have sparked a different kind of fire in the East Texas church community. Now, Rusk County churches are on alert. Their goal is to be ready when and if the arsonist strikes again.

"It's going to take all of us working together," said Rusk County Sheriff Danny Pirtle.

It was standing room only at the Rusk County meeting with more than 70 churches represented.

"When you start assailing churches in East Texas you touch a raw never and people become very, very concerned," said Buddy Williams, a church member.

And, those concerns are why Pirtle is not taking any chances with a serial arsonist still out there.

"I guess we can feel fortunate that we haven't had this to occur in Rusk County yet but we want to try to be prepared," said Pirtle.

From churches in the rural parts of Rusk County to the city, authorities urged pastors to be on alert and take precautions.

"The smallest things or things that we make think could end up being something related to some of these cases," said Deputy Bryan Cole.

"Get you a blue print, get you one made or do a rough draft or whatever, but do not store it at the church," said Smith County Deputy Fire Marshall Marilynn Wilson.

"We have blue prints of our church because we've recently done our renovation work, but we had our blue prints in the church," said Antioch Baptist Church Pastor Lewis Thompson.

Some churches are so ready to see these crimes stop they are willing to help up the reward.

"$25,000 is a lot of money," said Williams. "$100,000 is more! So our church - we're going to pass a collection."

They are hoping that more money and more eyes will end the thoughtless destruction.

"The East Texas law enforcement community and the church community will catch this guy," said Williams. "The Lord will be the judge of how severely they're punished. They don't want to leave it in my hands!"

A meeting is planned next Monday for members of churches in Tyler's fourth precinct. Before that meeting, Tyler police plan to contact a staff member of every church in the city limits. Also, fire officials in Seven Points plan to meet with parishioners on Saturday.

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