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Pastor rebuilds after fire, calls activity “suspicious”

It smelled like a campfire.

“It was a smell of charred wood, basically,” Chris Cook, the pastor of Parkade Baptist Church, said.

Cook found the entrance to the church’s children services burned Halloween morning, after the Columbia Fire Department put out a blaze around the wooden walls by the doors. Battalion Chief Brad Frazier said Thursday the fire caused $5,000 in damage, but the department still had not determined what caused the fire.

Drivers would not have seen the fire at Parkade Baptist Church that Halloween morning, since the doors are behind the sanctuary’s entrance at 2102 Garth Ave. However, a Columbia police officer drove through the parking lot as the fire grew outside, and asked for firefighters to help extinguish the flames.

“If it had not been for the job that police officer was doing, we probably would have had much greater damage than what we had,” Cook said.

Cook said the building’s fire alarm did not sound because the fire only burned outside the church.

“There’s no electric lines, there’s no gas lines,” Cook said. “Nothing there, except just wood.”

Six days after the fire, a different alarm did go off at the church. Cook said someone broke a window, but didn’t believe the person who broke it stole anything.

Parkade Baptist Church is four blocks from Bach-Yager Funeral Chapel, a former church that suffered heavy smoke and fire damage Sunday morning. The fire department called it an arson Wednesday afternoon, and the investigation continues.

“Very suspicious, all of this is,” Cook said.

Cook said the fire department came back to Parkade Baptist Church this week to follow up on the investigation into both fires. Cook said the department could only connect the two by the possibility of the fire starting on the ground level.

Cook said he’s pleased with the alarm system he has in place now. He said he will be increasing security around the building soon, in particular, adding video cameras.

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