Fire breaks out at historically black church in South Carolina

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Another Southern church was on fire Tuesday night, with up to 50 firefighters called to Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, a predominantly black church in Greeleyville, South Carolina.

It’s one of at least seven black church fires in the South since nine people were killed in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, about an hour and half drive away, on June 17th. Arson is suspected in at least three of those, according to the Washington Post.

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A cause for the Greeleyville fire isn’t known yet. A county sheriff’s office investigator who spoke to the Post and Courier speculated that it could have been related to lightning, but didn’t rule out the possibility of arson. “Certainly, I think we all are concerned about those things,” he told the paper.

A federal source has confirmed to the Associated Press that after an initial investigation, authorities do not think the fire was caused by arson.

The same church was burned to the ground in 1995 by the Ku Klux Klan. Bill Clinton spoke there shortly before its rededication the next year.

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has launched a series of investigations into the recent spate of church fires. ATF is mandated to investigate all church fire incidents. Earlier Tuesday, the bureau told BuzzFeed in a statement that it has "no reason to believe these fires are racially motivated or related, adding that it is "in the early stages of these investigations.”

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Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.

Jorge Rivas is the national affairs correspondent at Fusion. He follows the national conversation through the lens of racial, sexual, and political identity.

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