Signs In Church Fire Point To Arson

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Officials investigating this week's fire at a building that was one of the state's oldest African-American churches say all signs point to arson. Whether it was deliberate or not, they don't know.

The Rev. Anthony Steele said he just hopes it was an accident.

The building has been closed for about a year. Transients had broken in and been evicted and the building had been boarded up again, but they returned.

Graffiti has been painted on the walls, including the word "fire" surrounded with a heart with an arrow through it. Reno Fire Marshal Larry Farr said it's impossible to know how long the image has been there unless it was seen during an inspection three months ago.

He said there have been three fires in a year on the street where the church building is located.

He said fire and code enforcement personnel responded to the former church building earlier this winter.

Since it had no utilities, Farr says it's apparent somebody got in and started the blaze.

Insurance adjustors will determine if the building is a total loss.