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Someone attempted to set fire to Stokesdale church, third incident in two weeks

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STOKESDALE, N.C. -- Officials are investigating after someone attempted to set fire to a Stokesdale church, marking the third incident at a church in Stokesdale in two weeks.

Guilford County Emergency Services Director Alan Perdue said Bethel United Methodist at 8424 Haw River Road was damaged in a fire on Wednesday.

We just cant believe it's another church that's been affected by this."

Reverend Danny Miller says his congregation at Bethel United Methodist had been keeping an eye on their church after hearing an arsonist hit two other Methodist Churches nearby just before Christmas.

The damage was discovered around 2 p.m. Officials said this was an "intentional fire."

The SBI will be on the scene today to investigate.

During the week of Christmas, fires were reported at Gideon Grove Methodist Church and Mount Zion Methodist Church.  

Gideon Grove Methodist Church was burned on Dec. 22. Rockingham County Fire Marshal Robert Cardwell said the fire at Mount Zion on Dec. 23 led investigators to believe that the two fires were related.

Cardwell said both churches were set on fire in the rear; one in the back of a classroom and the other in the fellowship hall.  

Cardwell said the Rockingham County K-9 officer Phoenix determined gasoline combustion was not a possible method in the Mount Zion arson, but unfortunately much of the evidence was burned.

“It’s a double edge sword, we were either going to burn our evidence away or destroy it by removing the walls or tearing down sections to be able to extinguish the fire,” Cardwell said.  

As the cleanup continued at Gideon Grove Thursday, members from a different church, Oak Ridge United Methodist, stopped by to drop off a donation.

"It's shocking to say they least that someone or someones continue to do this," said Luther Starnes.

Chris Vanvlack added, "We took money up from our Sunday School class to provide support and help them in someway rebuild their church."

Starnes and Vanvlack can't help but worry about their church, Oak Ridge United Methodist, also nearby.

"We're all gonna continue on with our lives and be vigilant be vigilant with our church and help the other ones," promised Vanvlack.

Rev. Miller continued, "These churches are completely unselfish and they are committed to reaching out to the community even in the face of evil such as this. Evil won't prevail," he paused. "Only good will."

The cause of all three church fires is still under investigation.