Updated 3:30 p.m., February 24, 2012: Police have identified a person of interest in the early morning fire at Zoar United Methodist Church in Snellville. Investigators are asking for the public's help in indentifying the man, described as a white male, approximately 18-26 years of age. A photo of him was taken at a nearby business just before the fire was reported. He was wearing torn blue jeans, a dark hooded jacket, and a striped shirt. If you think that you know the person in the photo or if you have any information that could be helpful, call 9-1-1 or the Gwinnett Fire Arson & Explosives Section at 678.518.4890.
Officials say a small fire early Friday morning in the gymnasium of a Snellville church has already been ruled an arson.
Evidence shows that someone forced entry into the back of Zoar United Methodist Church, and then intentionally set a fire in the kitchen area of the gymnasium, said Capt. Tommy Rutledge in a press release.
Fire fighters arrived to the scene about 12:30 a.m. No one was there at the time, and there were no injuries, officials said.
Officials added that a properly working sprinkler system extinguised the flames quickly, preventing wide-spread damage.
"This is a prime example of the effectiveness of fire sprinklers inside buildings." Rutledge said in the release. "The small fire caused minimal smoke and water damage to the kitchen area."
In addition to the evidence of forced entry, fire investigators also said that there were signs of "slight vandalism" inside the gymnasium.
No additional specific information is being released at this time.
In 2011, Zoar United Methodist Church celebrated 200 years in the Snellville community. The church puts on a number of programs for the community, and its senior pastor there is the Rev. Kelly Brisendine.
Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to contact the Gwinnett Fire Arson & Explosives Section at 678.518.4890 or the Georgia Arson Hotline at 1.800.282.5804.
Georgia Arson Control Inc. offers a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for arson. If convicted, those responsible could spend up to 20 years in prison.
To make a donation to Zoar UMC, contact the church via its website.