New Hope fire called suspicious
State Police take samples from church’s rubble
Investigators looking into the fire that destroyed New Hope Union Church Sept. 12 have taken samples from the rubble to determine if the fire might have been arson.
The Craig County Sheriff’s Office and firefighters asked for assistance from the Virginia State Police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Salem.
And a reward for information leading to any arson arrest and/or indictment is being offered by Farm Bureau Insurance, which insured the building.
‘It’s too early to tell right now,” BCI Lt. Tim Lyon said Monday morning, “but Special Agent Gus Necessary took samples from the scene and submitted them to the Western Virginia regional lab, to determine if there were any traces of accelerant or petroleum products.”
The BCI is waiting for results of those tests, Lyon explained. Despite firefighters’ efforts, just about all of church on Upper Craigs Creek Road that was left was a front wall and sign. The 1915-era building was fully engulfed in flames when volunteer firefighters from the Upper Craigs Creek Fire Department arrived a few minutes after the fire was reported at 12:20 a.m. on Sept. 12.
“The fire appears to be suspicious,” Lyon said, adding, “Normally, when the BCI gets a request, it has to be suspicious in nature in order for us to respond.”
Lyon asked if anyone who has any information that could help the investigation to call the Bureau of Criminal Investigation during the day at 540-375-9547, or after hours, 1-800-542-5959, or Virginia Farm Bureau’s Special Investigations Department at 540-589-5260. Chief Terry Brookman reported that volunteers from the UCCVFD and firefighters from the New Castle Volunteer Fire Department continued to fight the fire from the outside for several hours. The Craig County Rescue Squad also assisted at the scene. Firefighters remained at the church the following day, monitoring the smoldering remains of the church building.