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Church fire ruled arson

July 17, 1997

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - A fire that destroyed a church here Monday night was ruled arson Wednesday by the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a spokesman said.

The determination was made after two arson experts from the ATF office in Falls Church, Va., sifted through the debris of the Holiness Church of Jesus Christ about five miles south of Berkeley Springs along U.S. 522, according to ATF spokesman Brad Earman.

The ATF is routinely investigating church fires since several predominantly black churches across the South burned down over the past two years. The Berkeley Springs church is predominantly white.

Investigators, who have released few other details, say they have interviewed several people in connection with the fire.

The fire was spotted about 11 p.m. Monday night by a man who was taking a break at a furniture factory across the highway, officials have said.

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