Arrest made in Bethlehem church hit by arson

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (WPVI) -- Police say an arrest has been made in the Bethlehem church fire.

Friday evening, 43-year-old Wilmer J. Ortiz Torres of Allentown was taken into custody.

He is expected to be arraigned and charged with counts of arson, burglary and criminal trespass.


Another fire broke out at a Bethlehem church that was destroyed by arson on Tuesday.

Firefighters rushed to Iglesia Pentecostal de Bethlehem just before 2 a.m. Thursday.
"I didn't believe it, so I came to her right away," said Nitza Colon, the pastor's daughter.

Colon says a friend of church called the fire in after noticing the flames near the roof.

A $5,000 reward is being offered to help find the person who set the sanctuary on fire Tuesday.

Authorities have not identified a cause for the second fire, but say they are asking for the public to report anyone that may have stopped by a convenience store or gas station to purchase gasoline in a container around the time of the fires.

"It's a shame, it's a shame that they're doing this, and thank God that's there's people watching out for us," Colon said.
Fire officials say the fire was contained to the roof and then quickly put out, but for the church community, it's the emotional damage that's most crippling.

"It really pained me, because I thought we were just getting over the hump," said church member Lucy Vazquez.

Hoping to ease their pain is Rev. J.C. Austin who has opened the doors of his First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem for the congregation this weekend.

"This is what we're called to do. Jesus said that there's no commandment than to love your neighbor as yourself and that's what we're trying to do here," said Austin.

Anyone with any information about this case is strongly encouraged to contact the Bethlehem police at 610-691-6660 or 610-865-7187. Callers may remain anonymous.
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