Investigators looking for suspect in church fire

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, October 7, 2020

By Shavonne Potts

SALISBURY — Fire investigators and Rowan Sheriff’s Office detectives are investigating an overnight church fire that was accelerated with gasoline.

On Tuesday night, firefighters responded to Franklin Baptist Church, located at 3810 U.S. 601, around 10:30 p.m. and found part of the structure on fire as well as nearby bushes, said Maj. John Sifford with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

A firefighter found a red plastic gas container in the bushes, Sifford said, and detectives collected it for evidence. Fire personnel smelled a strong odor of gasoline near where the fire started, Sifford said. There was some smoke inside the building, but most of the damage was on the outside near the roofline, an exterior door, window and landscaping around the church.

Someone called 911 to say they saw a male walking on U.S. 601 with a baseball cap and tan overalls. He appeared to be in his 20s with sandy-colored hair, Sifford said. He was headed past Dollar General in the direction of Davie County.

The church estimated the damage at $1,700.

Anyone with information is asked to contact detective Bare or Sgt. Ollie Greene at the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office via 704-216-8686 or Salisbury-Rowan Crime Stoppers at 1-866-639-5245.