- (Photo: AP Images / Mike Fuentes)
Fires broke out at two churches near Tyler, Texas, on Monday, bringing the number of torched worship centers in the area since Jan. 1 to about ten.
Since the start of the New Year, at least ten churches in the eastern and central Texas regions have been struck by fires, which federal investigators suspect are the work of an arsonist or a team of arsonists.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was brought in to investigate the fires after two churches were stuck over the weekend of Jan. 16-17. Since then, four more churches have been hit, prompting the ATF's National Response Team (NRT) along with ATF special agents from the Tyler Field Office, Dallas Field Division to get involved last week.
"ATF will use all of the resources at its disposal to determine the origin and cause of this fire," said Ken Chisholm, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Dallas Field Division, this past Thursday.
Earlier, Chisholm reported that ATF was offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved in the church fires.
Though the church fires have long been believed to be the result of arson, authorities officially announced Tuesday that the first eight churches that were set ablaze were struck deliberately.
As for Monday's fires, authorities have yet to draw a conclusion but suspect they were intentionally set as well.
All ten churches varied in size and denomination.