A centuries-old wooden church in Finland was burnt to the ground during a service on Christmas morning with police believing that the fire was likely deliberate.
The church, located in Rautjärvi, was evacuated around 9:30 a.m. during a service on Christmas after smoke alarms detected a fire. The 30 to 40 worshippers inside the church evacuated as the building became engulfed in flames (via Breitbart):
The South-East Finland Police Department arrived on the scene of the fire and stated that they believed the fire was likely deliberately set and are investigating the incident as an arson attack, Finnish broadcaster Yle reports.
Chaplain Timo Kälviäinen, who was conducting the Christmas service, stated, “I had time to realize that the fire alarm was ringing, and it didn’t take long after that.” Kälviäinen stated that the 30 to 40 parishioners exited through the side doors as the fire was set at the main doors of the church.
When first responders arrived on the scene, the fire was so extensive that the building, constructed in 1881, could not be saved, local outlet Yle reported.
Linda Wilen-Veijalainen, who lived on a farm next door to the church, told Yle that she could see when the church tower came down. And, that same day, a separate suspected arson attack occurred at a home about 20 miles away. The European Conservative noted that the church was a replacement for an earlier church that was destroyed in a fire in 1872.
On Monday, Yle reported that police said rope and string had been found on the side doors of the church, likely to prevent people from evacuating the building during the fire.
Leading up to Christmas, two churches in France were reportedly attacked, one in Paris and the other in Bordeaux. The church in Bordeaux was found with 17 “impacts” in the windows of the church, while the church in Paris was spray-painted with “far-left anarchist slogans,” according to Breitbart.