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Burned Episcopal church is up for sale, arson investigation continues

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Updated: 2/03 8:26 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The state fire marshal is offering a $5,000 reward for information about the arson investigation at Church of the Epiphany. Action News has learned that before the string of fires hit the church, the Episcopal Diocese of Florida had put the property up for sale.

Jacksonville firefighters were back at the site Monday to take a look at the damage left by massive flames over the weekend. It's the fourth time they've had to risk their lives to battles fires at the location in a span four months.

For neighbor Dwight Bayes, it's been an ongoing issue in his Westside neighborhood.

"They tried to burn the hotel over there. They were building a hotel and there's a small community center where the church is, they tried to burn that down," said Bayes.

The first fire happened in September when the adjacent school house was destroyed, just last month, two fires broke out on the same day. But the latest fire did the most damage to the sanctuary, leaving the building gutted.

A former church member said she fears the youth center will be next.

"I think they ought to be prosecuted, you shouldn't be burning churches down, that's a place of worship," said Bayes.

According to the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, the church closed a year ago because of dwindling membership, it was then put up for sale.

According to Colliers International, the realty company whose sign sits on the property, a buyer was scheduled to close later this month. It's unclear if the string of fires will impact the sale. The realty company said the buyer plans to redevelop the site.

The state fire marshal's office said it has questioned two people of interest in the case, but so far no charges have been filed.

If you know anything about the fire, call the arson tip line at 1-877-NO-ARSON.
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