Officials: Fire at NW Side Church ‘Very Suspicious'

A "very suspicious" fire broke out at a Northwest Side church in the Hermosa neighborhood early Saturday, but churchgoers and residents didn't let that stop them from attending a service Sunday.

The fire was discovered around 3:30 a.m. Saturday at the Outreach Community Church in the 4300 block of West Parker Avenue, according to Chicago Fire Media Affairs.

No injuries were reported in the blaze and the cause of the fire remains unclear.

A spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the fire appeared "very suspicious."

"There appears to multiple points of origin," said ATF spokesman Tom Ahern. "It appears there was a reason why this fire was set."

Flames were reported out around 4 a.m. Saturday, officials said.

It was a devastating sight for many parishioners of the church.

"To come and see this happen to a church, what would a person be thinking?" said Deacon Sam Jones.

Dogs that can detect accelerants were also brought to the scene to work with investigators.

Late Thursday night, church officials say someone threw a brick through the glass doors, but it is unclear if that incident is connected to the fire.

"We have been in the neighborhood for 13 years," said Jones. "Never had a problem."

"I feel sadness in my heart without a church," said resident Manuel Gomez.

Church leaders say they will come back from this temporary setback.

"We lost everything but we're going to bounce back," Jones said. "We've done it before we will do it again."

Pastor Shawn Woody said the congregation's support was in full swing Sunday as he prepared for a morning service in the church's nearby annex building, often used for Sunday school.

"We want this to be an encouraging day," he said. "We will rebuild."

Officials said samples of the accelerant found after the blaze are being analyzed at a lab, but the fire has not yet been deemed arson.

The Chicago Tribune reported a witness who called 911 after he saw smoke coming from the building told police he saw a man carrying a bucket or canister while walking away from a gas station across the street and toward the church, in an alley.

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