Walker County fire chief Randy Camp and fire marshal Waymond Westbrook held a news conference late Tuesday afternoon.
Two buildings —the church’s main auditorium and fellowship hall — are separated and required firefighters to respond as if fighting two separate fires, Camp said Tuesday. Officials believe the fire was started between the two buildings, which led investigators to suspect arson.
The historic church, which is on Marble Top Road, burned once before, during the 1920s when it was built, Camp said.
Camp estimates 75 percent the Walker County Fire Department’s resources were used to control the blaze.
Anyone with a tip for investigators should call Walker County fire headquarters at 706-539-1255.
The severity of the fire in a short timeframe is another factor leading to the arson determination.
“”Our investigation has concluded today that the fire was deliberately set and we are ruling it an arson fire,” Camp said.
The determination is from a joint investigation by the county fire department and the Georgia fire marshals office.
There are currently no suspects in the case. Officials have recovered some evidence from the scene.
Church members had locked the church at 9:30 p.m., according to Camp, and the fire started within 90 minutes.
“Samples have been taken by the state fire marshal arson canine unit,” Westbrook said.
Camp said the church’s insurance value is $250,000, but he believes the loss to be more than $500,000.
The church was approximately 7,000 square feet.
Congregation members are cooperating with authorities, according to Westbrook.
Georgia Arson Control has a reward up to $10,000 for any information leading to an arrest, Westbrook said.
Westbrook said this arson is not related to any recent local cases. The suspect in a series of arsons is in custody.