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5-Alarm Dorchester Church Fire Ruled Arson

Boston fire officials say a weekend blaze that heavily damaged a Dorchester church was set. The fire at the New Fellowship Baptist Church on Blue Hill Avenue caused a quarter-million dollars worth of damage.

Pastor Stanley Deas says he is troubled to hear the fire was intentionally set.

"I see motivation when I hear that," Deas said. "Somebody had a reason to do this. And I'm trying to think of who that person or persons might be. And I'm coming up with a blank so far."

Deas has lead the 47-year-old church for the last six years. His mother was one of the founding members. Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald says the church could have been targeted, or the fire could have been a random act of vandalism. Pastor Deas says he is praying for whomever is responsible.

"I just pray that God will have mercy on them. And that they will find it in their heart to repent, for what they have done," Deas said.

Boston fire investigators have been working closely with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Burning a house of worship is considered a federal crime punishable by a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Church members vow to rebuild in the same location. The building at one time was a 1,200-seat movie house, known as the Franklin Park Theater. The church was insured. In the interim, worship services will be held in the church kitchen in an adjacent building.

This program aired on February 23, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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