Maggie Ybarra, Washington Times, July 1, 2015
A string of fires at black churches in Southern states have sparked concerns that racial friction has spiked in the aftermath of the racially-motivated mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Federal fire investigators are combing through the remains say they do not have enough evidence on hand to determine that the scattered incidents were racial attacks against the black population. Additionally, it does not yet appear that any of the fires are connected, said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman Ginger Colbrun.
“We don’t believe they’re racially motivated or related,” she told The Washington Times. “I mean, if you go back and look at some of these circumstances, everyone is just lumping them in as one and that’s not good. There’s no linkage at this time.”
Those investigators are gathering information on the fires that took place in southern churches, which began going up in flames in the days following the June 17 mass shooting.
Nearly 1,800 church fires occur every year–almost five per day; though that figure includes churches of all ethnicities–among the 300,000 structure fires in the U.S., said John Lentini, president of Scientific Fire Analysis LLC, who has conducted thousands of fire-scene inspections.
According to a 2013 estimate by the National Fire Protection Association, about one-sixth of all fires at churches and other religious buildings turn out to be arson. And a task force established by President Clinton in the 1990s noted that about one-third of the attacks on black churches resulted in arrests of black people and the motives of arsonists and bombers of all ethnicities varied and often weren’t race-related–vandalism, burglary, cover-up and personal grudges, for example.