SAN ANTONIO - A suspected arson fire broke out Thursday morning in a second floor room at St. Gerard Catholic Church, leaving its parishioners looking for another place to attend Thanksgiving Day mass.
According to the church pastor, Fr. James Shea, the fire damage was contained to that one room. However, he said there is smoke throughout the building, including the sanctuary itself.
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The electricity also had to be disconnected temporarily.
Shea was not able to say right away when the church might reopen.
San Antonio firefighters responded to a 911 call about the fire around 2:30 a.m. Thursday. The church is located on Iowa Street near Gevers Road, not far from St. Phillip's College on the city's East side.
Firefighters then called in arson investigators after noticing something suspicious at the scene.
Shea said candles were involved and may be the cause of the fire. .
"There's a step ladder back there and it's leaning against a wall," said Shea. "They put the candles, without any protection--wax candles--up the steps. Then they were lit, for whatever reason."
He said in addition to starting the fire, the people who broke in also stole some items from the church, such as wine and chalices.
Shea said a Thanksgiving day mass was to be held at the church but has been cancelled. He urged parishioners to attend another church for the day.
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