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Fire called suspicious hits Greek church rectory; public tips urged

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Parish council issues statement

UPDATED, June 25: Public safety officials are seeking the community’s assistance as they investigate an early morning fire in the rectory of an Arlington church, said Fire Chief Kevin M. Kelley, Police Chief Julie Flaherty, and state Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey in a statement.

Shortly before 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 21, an Arlington police officer observed smoke in the area of 22 Appleton St., the rectory of St. Athanasius the Great Church a short distance away. Arlington firefighters responded to the scene to find heavy smoke inside the structure, which was unoccupied while under renovation. They located a smoldering fire in the basement of the building and quickly extinguished it.

In response to questions from YourArlington, Deputy Chief Ryan Melly wrote that the fire, which began in the basement, is being investigated as suspicious and possibly caused by an intruder.

See the ACMi video about suspected arson at St. Athanasius's rectory:

The blaze caused an estimated $10,000 in damage, mostly from smoke and affecting a few windows.

The alarm came in at 1:28 a.m. Responding were units E2, E3, L1, R1, C2 and E1, which brought the fire under control in about 30 minutes.

There were no reported injuries.

“We’re asking anyone with information on this fire or how it started to share it with investigators,” said Chief Kelley in a statement from Jake Wark of the fire marshal's office. “You can remain anonymous if you prefer.”

“There are few fire incidents more concerning than those that affect houses of worship,” saidOstroskey. “We want the community to know that we take this fire, and any fire at a place of worship, seriously.”

Anyone with information on the fire, its origin, or individuals involved is asked to call the Arson Watch Reward Program Hotline at 1-800-682-9229.

Reward program

The Arson Watch Reward Program is operated by the Massachusetts Property Insurance Underwriters Association and offers rewards of up to $5,000 for information that solves or detects arson crimes. All calls are confidential. Tipsters may remain anonymous if they wish.

Those with information may also contact the Arlington Police Department to speak with local investigators at 781-316-3910.

The origin and cause of the fire are being investigated by the Arlington Fire Department, Arlington Police Department, the State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the state Fire Marshal’s office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The news was first reported by Channel 7.  

'Acts of Hate, Suspected Arson, and Destruction of Property Targeting Orthodox Christian Faithful'

The following June 23 news release was issued by the Board of Directors and Parish Council of St. Athanasius the Great Greek Orthodox Church:

On June 21, 2022 Saint Athanasius the Great suffered a tragic event resulting in a loss at one of our church campus buildings, known as the community center, at 22 Appleton St. We are fortunate there were no injuries to any person; however, emotional distress and deep concern is impacting our church family. These actions are unsettling to our Orthodox Faithful, and we ask God to hear our fervent prayer of healing for the individuals who committed these harmful, senseless acts.

While this matter remains under investigation, we will be cooperating with both the Arlington Police Department and state agencies to ensure justice is served for those who are responsible.

These heinous acts of hatred, violence and persecution against Orthodox Christians, on a church campus where we come to pray, is truly unacceptable and has no place in any city or town. We believe these actions are not an accurate portrayal of the greater Arlington Community, which we have been a part of since our founding in 1964.

While at the present time it remains unclear who is responsible, we pray they are brought to justice.

Details of event

In the early morning hours (approximately 1:10 a.m.) of June 21, 2022, a fire was discovered at one of our church campus buildings by an officer of the Arlington Police Department. Our community center building located at 22 Appleton St. was forcibly accessed by an unknown party through a basement window. A fire was intentionally set in the basement of the building causing smoke damage within the interior of the structure, on all floors, along with building damage to gain control of the situation.

Unfortunately, our community has been the victim of repeated violence, hatred, break-in and enterings and malicious destruction of property at this location in the past.

Prayerful outcome, town government response

Our community remains vigilant in the interest of safety and has taken the necessary steps to make this property secure once again while it undergoes a phased renovation project. We remain steadfast in prayer for those who committed these senseless acts of hatred, violence and destruction against our congregation. We respectfully call upon our Arlington Town Manager, Arlington Select Board and Arlington Public School Committee to support the necessary efforts of the Arlington Police Department in the apprehension of these individuals, while providing additional support to make our community safer for all.

We would like to acknowledge Dr. Elizabeth Homan, Superintendent of Arlington Public Schools, for her recent support in our previously reported matters to the Arlington Police Department of vandalism, breaking and enterings and destruction of property.

Gratitude

We are grateful to Officer Michael Largenton for his commitment to safety, exceptional police work and commitment to community service in the early morning hours of June 21, 2022. His genuine care and comfort, along with his dedication to his career in law enforcement is greatly appreciated by our congregation. Additionally, we are extremely grateful to Deputy Chief Kelley and the entire Arlington Fire Department for their professionalism, swift response, and expert handling of the fire.

We extend our utmost gratitude to Arlington Police Chief Juliann Flaherty, Capt. Richard Flynn, Detective Lt. Bryan Gallagher and School Resource Officer Bryan White for their responsiveness and support during this event and over the last several months. Their commitment to our safety has been heartwarming and appreciated.

Reward, updates

We ask for the Arlington Community’s help in finding the person(s) responsible. Please contact the Arson Watch Reward program Hotline at 1-800-682-9229 if you have any information on the fire.

Rewards are offered by the Massachusetts Property insurance Underwriters Association up to the amount of $5,000 for any credible information leading to solve this arson crime.

Any future updates/press releases will be provided via our website at www.saintathanasius.org and our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SaintAthanasiusArlington/


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This news announcement was published Tuesday, June 21, 2022, and updated twice that day to a news summary, as well as June 24, to add ACMi video, and June 25, to add statement.

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