PEMBROKE — Investigators say whoever set a church van on fire early Thursday morning may have been burned while trying to syphon gas from the vehicle.
Stephanie Chavis, director of Emergency Services for Robeson County, said she was called to Friendship Missionary Church on Prospect Road at about 4:45 a.m. Within about 20 minutes a fire burning a new 15-passenger church van and a carport had been extinguished by Prospect Fire and Pembroke Rural fire departments.
“We found the remains of a battery and there were wires running from the battery and they were melted into a plastic tub that you would use for storage,” Chavis said, noting the van’s gasoline tank had been ruptured.
Chavis believes whoever was siphoning the gasoline would have been burned in the blaze.
The Chevrolet van was destroyed but damage to the carport was limited. The church was not damaged.
“Later on after we left the scene we were told that there was a small, white car sitting out near the church … so we feel like maybe our suspect was driving that car or was dropped off by that car,” Chavis said.
Anyone with information should call Chavis at 910-671-3152 or Lt. Brian Duckworth, arson investigator with the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, at 910-671-3100.