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Arson suspected in Pasadena church fire

Throop Unitarian Universalist Church waits for investigation's results.
By Jane Greer

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burnt books

Richard Mazon, a long time member of Throop Unitarian Universalist Church, looks over fire damage behind the altar of the Pasadena church Friday, November 23, 2007. (SGVN Staff Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/SXCITY)

Arson is the suspected cause of a small fire that broke out Thanksgiving evening, November 22, in the sanctuary of Throop Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena, Calif. The blaze was quickly discovered by people at a 12-step meeting in the building who ran into the sanctuary with fire extinguishers while waiting for the fire department to arrive.

The fire burned a small room behind the altar, destroying hymnbooks and shelving and scorching the back wall behind the altar and part of the ceiling. The smoke damage to the sanctuary was extensive. The congregation is still waiting to get estimates on the cost of the damage, said Martha Sanders, congregation president, although insurance is expected to cover all expenses.

The fire department later determined that the fire was set and is in the midst of an investigation. “We had had an open door policy when groups were using the church,” said Sanders, “and we were having increasing problems with transients slipping in and hiding there. As a result of the fire we have greatly improved our security procedures.”

The 71-member congregation is worshipping in the church’s recreation hall until the damage in the sanctuary can be fixed.

Sanders said the overwhelming feeling among congregants is one of gratitude. “We are thankful no one was hurt. We are thankful for the people who were there at the time of the fire. We are thankful that the fire department responded so quickly and there was so little damage done.”

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