Arson might be to blame for Orange Park church fire, investigators say

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — Arson could be the cause of a fire that destroyed a historically black church in Orange Park.

St. Simon Baptist Church was charred to ruins overnight.

Lester Perry, a deacon and church administrator, said seeing the damage in person was heartbreaking.”I could’ve cried. It was so devastating,” Perry said.

Investigators spent hours Friday working to determine the origin of the fire.

An arson sign was placed in front of the building, with a $5,000 reward for information.

Investigators on scene said they put the sign up to get people in the community to come forward, but stopped short of confirming if arson was fully to blame.

However, investigators did say the fire looks suspicious because the church was empty inside at the time and there weren’t many things that could burn up.

Perry said the church had been under renovation since November 2020.

“We was like how can the church be on fire? It’s nothing in the church to catch on fire,” Perry said.

It’s been more than a year since church members have held worship inside because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve been holding their services outside the church.

With their unwavering faith, church members are vowing to rebuild.”It might look disastrous and devastating but we going to rebuild,” Perry said. “The Bible tells us that we always should rebuild and there comes a time when we need to rebuild.”