LORAIN, Ohio — The State Fire Marshal is offering a $5,000 reward for information about a suspected arson fire that caused more than $1 million in damage to the gymnasium of the St. Anthony of Padua Parish and Catholic School in Lorain, according to the Lorain Fire Department.
“There’s no electric in that area, there’s no natural gas in that area, there’s no reason for it to start," explained Lorain Fire Lt. Ben Weber. "Due to the high dollar amount of damage, we called in the state investigators. They ran their dog through and it picked up on accelerants. So the State Fire Marshal has determined it is arson.”
At 4:45 a.m. Thursday, Lorain Fire was alerted by a passerby who said they saw smoke coming from the gymnasium section of the school, located at 1339 E. Erie Avenue.
When crews arrived, they found smoke and flames just outside the building. The fire was extinguished within about 30 minutes.
Fire investigators found broken windows to the gym. There was evidence of significant smoke and structural damage caused by heat. Investigators believe damages are over $1 million.
“I couldn’t believe that anyone would do that for whatever reason,” said Marci Downie, a member at St. Anthony of Padua Parish.
Alicia Stack, a former member who was praying at the church's adoration chapel Friday added, “It makes me want to double-down in prayer, especially the rosary. We need that now more than ever.”
This is the second time this year that a Christian school bearing the name St. Padua of Anthony has been damaged in an arson fire. In February, over $1 million in damage was done to St. Anthony of Padua Elementary School in Parma by an arson fire.
A cash reward of up to $5,000 was offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction, but no one has been arrested in connection with this arson as of July 1, 2022. Investigators don't believe the fires are connected.
“Purely coincidental," said Lt. Weber. "I know they’re working hard down there to figure theirs out. They’re totally unrelated.”
Anyone with information should call the State Fire Marshal tip line at 800-589-2728 or the Lorain Fire Department at 440-204-2220.
Watch our report on the arson in February below:
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