Palin's church heavily damaged in fire - arson suspected

Stephen Nowers/Anchorage Daily News/MCT/Newscom

Sarah Palin's family will have to attend church in a local school this morning after a fire ripped through her church on Friday evening.

The fire, estimated to have caused $1 million in damages to the Wasilla Bible Church, has been labeled "suspicious" by James Steele, chief of the Central Mat-Su Fire Department.

Potential arson

Steele told the Anchorage Daily News that investigators are looking at the cause of the blaze as "potential arson" and said it was too early to link the fire to the exposure the church received as a result of Palin's vice-presidential run.

"Right now there's no indication that we have that there's any connection there. We just don't have any leads at all as far as the intent or motive in this," Steele said.

The fire, the largest of the year for the department, "was was set at the entrance of the church" according to the Associated Press and was battled by firefighters for nearly eight hours before it was fully extinguished. Reports are that five women were inside the building at the time of the fire. No one was injured.

Palin statement

Governor Palin visited the church on Saturday and her office later released a statement.

"Gov. Palin stopped by the church this morning, and she told an assistant pastor that she apologizes if the incident is in any way connected to the undeserved negative attention the church has received since she became a vice-presidential candidate on Aug. 29. Whatever the motives of the arsonist, the governor has faith in the scriptural passage that what was intended for evil will in some way be used for good."

Palin is in Juneau today, but the Anchorage Daily News said her children were planning on attending services at the makeshift church.

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