SLED, local officials investigating possible arson at Mount Pleasant church
This secluded patch of land is quiet, aside from the screech of construction trucks tending to developing residential property nearby.
Hidden within the otherwise wooded neighborhood is the source of a budding arson investigation that has left Palmetto Presbyterian Pastor Michael Fitze worried for the safety of his church.
State Law Enforcement Division agents, Mount Pleasant police and firefighters are investigating whether the church, which sits just south of Wando High School at 1720 Carolina Park Blvd., was twice targeted by arsonists in less than a month’s time.
Church members arrived at the facility about 8:30 a.m. on Good Friday to prepare for a worship service later in the evening, Fitze said.
They didn’t make it as far as the building’s tall, mahogany front doors before noticing that the church’s exterior had been blackened with soot, Fitze said.
Fire and smoke damage also could be seen on one of the church’s side doors, and on singed shrubbery lining the base of the building. The incident wasn’t the first time the church was subject to possible arson.
Mount Pleasant police were called to the church three weeks earlier to investigate similar damage to the church’s exterior. Neither incident was severe enough to trigger the church’s fire alarm or sprinkler system.
“It’s just scary that it happened twice,” Fitze said. “The construction materials are what saved us.”
The flames never breached the church’s wooden doors, which are roughly 3 inches thick, or siding, though a resulting smoky odor had to be cleared from the building, he said.
In both cases, church members simply washed away as much of the soot as they could and moved on, Fitze said.
SLED agents were called to investigate the origin of each fire following the second incident, police said. The cause of both fires is under investigation, spokesman Thom Berry said.
Fitze isn’t keen on speculating about who could be setting his church on fire or why, but he said he suspects that neighborhood kids could be responsible.
If the culprits were serious about damaging the church, Fitze speculated, they perhaps would have thrown a brick through a window to set a blaze.
“This isn’t really getting the job done,” Fitze said.