Around 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, the Gulfport Fire Department put out a fire at the First United Methodist Church on 15th Street.
The fire was initiated under a floor camera set up between pews in the sanctuary. Smoke from the fire turned the walls of the sanctuary black and stained the glass dome.
Currently, First United Methodist is working on repairs to the floor near where the fire was ignited and getting rid of the smoke fumes.
Pastor Claire Dobbs talked to WXXV about her and her congregation’s reaction to the incident. “You know, we’ve heard the phrase crime of opportunity. We don’t believe there was any connection to our church with the person that did this and yes, he is in custody and we’re praying for him and hope he finds healing and peace. As always this church community has rallied and we’re thriving and we are a strong congregation and I’m so grateful for the support of the community, especially on Facebook. People have just offered their prayers and support and we’re so grateful to be a downtown church in the community of Gulfport.”
Gulfport police has arrested 27-year-old Blake Bagwell in connection with the church fire and has charged him with arson and three counts of burglary.