Rockingham County officials believe church fires are related

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Rockingham County Fire Investigators are asking for the help of the Stokesdale community to find the suspect or suspects responsible for the fires at Gideon Grove Methodist Church and Mount Zion Methodist Church.  

Rockingham County Fire Marshal Robert Cardwell said the fire at Mount Zion Sunday night left investigators to believe that the crimes are 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.  

The cause for both fires is still under investigation. Rockingham County Sheriff deputies will be patrolling the area more frequently to make sure the area in secure.  

Pastor Craig Toth of Mount Zion Methodist Church said only the fellowship hall was damaged and the children's Christmas play will still go on as scheduled Monday night.  

"It gives us an opportunity to draw close and to show love for one another," Toth said. "Even though no one was hurt, these facilities are the work of people’s efforts over many many years. So it’s like something that’s precious to you that somebody is trampling upon."

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