EMMETT -- Police are now officially investigating two early Saturday morning church fires in Emmett as arson. The fires extensively damaged First Baptist Church and the Community Bible Church.
First Baptist Church Pastor Lance Zagaris gave KTVB a tour of the inside of the church on Monday morning. The white and light green walls of the sanctuary are now blackened and grayed from smoke. The bell tower and stairs are charred and the parlor near the stairs has a lot of heat damage with light fixtures melted to the floor and blinds melted off the windows.
"I can remember what it looks like, so it is hard," Zagaris said. "I'm just trying to focus on that the Lord can work through all this and can bring good out of this. Right now, it's hard to see what that looks like, but because he is not only our creator but he renews us individually, he can recreate a facility like this."
Down the street at the Community Bible Church, fire gutted the entry way and offices and destroyed memorial artwork. The sanctuary also has extensive smoke damage.
Now the community is on guard, with some watching the town's buildings throughout the night, as prosecutors and police look for clues and suspects.
"It's something that just strikes to the core of the community and makes us more determined to solve these crimes and make sure that justice is done," Gem County Prosecutor Richard Linville said. "I can tell you that at this point we've got a greater deployment of resources in this investigation than we've had in any investigation in quite sometime, so that raises my level of confidence [in solving the case], and I think our community will come forth and assist as well."
The Emmett Police Department is working with the Gem County Sheriff's Office, State Fire Marshal's Office, FBI and ATF on the case. The Ada County Crime Lab is also helping with evidence.
The prosecutor says no suspects have been identified yet. Police say if this was found to be a hate crime, even more serious charges could be possible for the people responsible.
Anyone with information about this case is encouraged by police to call Crime Stoppers at 343-COPS.