July 3, 2009

Arson attempt at Holy Trinity leads to security warning for churches, schools

By Mary Ann Wyand

An attempted arson fire in the boiler room at historic Holy Trinity Church in Indianapolis during the early morning hours of June 17 has prompted archdiocesan officials to warn staff members at parishes about making sure exterior doors and windows of churches and schools are properly secured.

Eric Atkins, director of management services for the archdiocese, said the attempted arson fire did not cause any damage to the 102-year-old brick church located on the corner of Holmes Avenue and St. Clair Street on the near west side.

Indianapolis firefighters searched the church and rectory, and located the source of the smoke in the church basement.

“We are all very thankful the situation was so minor,” Atkins said, “compared to what could have occurred.”

Edward Johnson, parish business manager, said the fire was set with a flammable liquid on a table covered with burlap that is used to display a Nativity scene during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

“It burned itself out after a time,” Johnson said, “having smoldered for a while rather than bursting into flames. We are truly blessed that something worse did not occur. The only damage was to one end of the table, and the resulting haze and odor of smoke was limited to the body of the church.”

Holy Trinity Parish “has always maintained security against intruders,” Johnson said, and a new lock was installed on the basement door after the break-in.

“As best I can tell, this [attempted arson] was just plain meanness,” Johnson said. “The fire was poorly set, thank God, but it was a close call.”

Atkins said the odor of smoke inside the church was removed with air purifier machines left inside the building for several days.

Parish staff members need to make sure that all entry points are secured, he said, with good locks installed on strong doors and windows. †

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