UPDATE: Arson investigation under way in Val Verde church fire

Los Angeles County Sheriffs Deputies investigate a potental arson in Val Verdeon Wednesday. Cory Rubin/ The Signal

A fire that broke out in the basement of a Val Verde church Wednesday morning, triggering a response by firefighters who extinguished the fire within about 20 minutes, is now suspected of being arson.

“Arson is suspected,” Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, said Wednesday.

“The fire is going to be assigned to the (Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s) Arson and Explosives Bureau,” she said.

Shortly after 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, light smoke was seen coming from the New Life Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, on Morningside Drive, at Hunstock Street.

“Firefighters reported seeing smoke coming from the basement,” said Marvin Lim, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

“They reported knockdown of the fire at 9:08 a.m.,” he said.

Deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station responded to a burglary alarm that went off at the church just seconds before the fire was detected.

“A burglary alarm went off initially,” Lt. Leo Bauer said. “We updated the call to a fire in the basement. We started rolling on that (alarm) initially and then upgraded it.”

The fire caused no structure damage to the building, Miller said.

The incident marked the second time in less than a week that property at a church in Val Verde was linked to burglary and fire.

Over the weekend, burglars broke into the Macedonia Church of God In Christ on Marvin Avenue, about three blocks.

Both churches — the Macedonia location and the one on Morningside — are buildings owned by Pastor Amos Hamilton and his wife, Toni Hamilton.

During the weekend church break-in, vandals stole a number of valuable items, including the church’s PA sound system, and setting fire to a table used for communion, Toni Hamilton said.

Hamilton said she and her husband are being targeted.

“I feel like it’s a message to me,” she said, referring specifically to thieves setting fire to the table used to hold communion wine and bread.

The Hamiltons and their parishioners are concerned about the violence.

“We’re all concerned,” Hamilton said. “We don’t know what’s going on.”

Deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station interviewed the Hamiltons to get an understanding of what happened.

“They wanted to know if anybody we know is disgruntled,” she said.

Five years ago, in December 2013,  the church on Morningside was trashed to extent witnessed on the weekend at the church on Marvin — furniture overturned, files scattered, religious artifacts destroyed.

In that case, like the burglary last Saturday, the church on Morningside had its PA sound system stolen.

In 2013, burglars ripped up Bibles in an apparent frenzied search for valuables. Thieves stole a Fender guitar, amps, a bass guitar, they took the cases, a sound board, a DVD player and two speakers.”

The mess on the tiny church’s floor in December 2013 included ripped Bibles and overturned chairs.

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