Arson declared for fire that destroyed building, equipment at Fullerton parish

By Maria Wiering
mwiering@CatholicReview.org

Twitter: @ReviewWiering
An early morning fire destroyed a maintenance building and its contents at St. Joseph in Fullerton March 30.
Monsignor Kevin T. Schenning, St. Joseph’s pastor, said a driver on Belair Road noticed flames around 3:30 a.m. and alerted 911.
A Baltimore County Police spokesperson confirmed the fire has been declared arson, but it remains under investigation.
Monsignor Schenning said a Baltimore County investigator told him he believes the fire began in a portable outhouse next to the maintenance building.
Fire and restoration crews contained and assessed the damaged area March 30, according to a statement on the parish website. The parish is working with the Archdiocese of Baltimore office of risk management.
The building stored cemetery and maintenance equipment, including a front-end loader, two tractors, four lawn tractors, three snow blowers, a generator and outdoor canopies, Monsignor Schenning told the Catholic Review. It also held the parish athletic association’s equipment and uniforms.
“Everything was kept there,” he said.
Tom Alban, archdiocesan director of risk management, said arson is uncommon for parishes in the archdiocese. This is the second case he has worked on in the eight years he has been in the position.
He said he is coordinating efforts to determine the value of the loss and working with the parish’s insurance company to secure compensation.
“Our goal is getting it safe, getting it secure, establishing the extent of the loss, valuing the loss, and getting with the parish to explain to them what the findings are and what the options are,” he said.
The parish property includes the church, a pre-kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school, parking lots, a rectory, a cemetery and athletic field. The maintenance building was located between a parking lot and athletic fields behind the church.
“For now just pray for your parish and the work ahead of us goes smoothly, and thank God that no one was hurt, as material things and a building can be replaced with time,” the parish website said.
That’s the message the parish has worked to convey to parishioners, Monsignor Schenning said.
“We’re surviving, and we plan to go on no matter what, and the mission of the parish and the mission of the church is still strong,” he told the Catholic Review.
The parish’s Easter Masses were held as scheduled.
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