A two-alarm fire at a mosque in Houston on Friday reportedly appeared “suspicious” and had “multiple points of origin.”
Those findings were confirmed by Special Agent Nicole Strong of the Houston Field Division for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (A.T.F), according to CNN.
— Cathy Hernandez (@ReporterCathy) December 26, 2015
The fire, which drew the attention of 80 firefighters, started at the Islamic Center of Houston shortly after the Friday prayer session. Fortunately, no one reported any injuries from the fire.
M.J. Khan, the president of this mosque in Houston, stated that the center was “pretty much empty” at the time of the fire.
KTRK-TV reported that the mosque fire started at 2:45 P.M. According to the report, it did not take the Houston Fire Department very long to extinguish the flames. However, Deputy Chief Fernando Herrera stated that they still approached the fire cautiously when they first arrived on the scene.
“When firefighters opened the rear doors, they discovered heavy fire and smoke. They began their attack cautiously at first.”
The smoke that emerged from this mosque in Houston, which is located within a strip mall, also drew the attention of neighboring businesses.
Restaurant owner Imran Momin claimed that the “smoke was pretty intense.” The pharmacy next door to the Islamic Center was reportedly damaged by the smoke. KTRK-TV interviewed several of the people that attended the mosque, discovering that there were mixed emotions when it came to the topic of how the fire may have started.
While some felt that it may have been an accident, others believed that the mosque in Houston was the victim of intentional arson.
Abd Hurman, the mosque caretaker, stated that he believed “it’s not something that would come accidentally.” Another person commented on the fans inside of the Houston mosque not working properly Friday, which may have caused an electrical issue that started the fire.
Mustafaa Carroll, an Executive Director for the local Council on American-Islamic Relations, reportedly wants to avoid jumping to conclusions while the A.T.F. investigates the fire further. However, Carroll did express hope that the two-alarm fire was an unexpected accident instead of an intentional act of arson.
“It makes it a little better if it’s an electrical fire but we’re hoping it’s not arson. It is one of the holiest days of the year for a lot of people. We revere profit Jesus these things for us are paramount.”
The prayer session for Friday night was held in a neighboring ballroom. The property owner of that new venue is apparently allowing worshippers to use it until their mosque in Houston is repaired.
Another fire was reported at a mosque in California earlier this month, according to the Los Angeles Times. 23-year-old Carl James Dial was charged with two felonies – burglary and the arson of a structure. Dial was also charged with a single misdemeanor count of committing a hate crime.
The flames of fire, which occurred at the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley, were reportedly contained and extinguished within the foyer of the mosque. The L.A. Times reported that Dial pleaded not guilty to each of the charges against him last week. If convicted, he could potentially face a maximum jail sentence of over 11 years.
— jay calderon (@jaymcalderon) December 17, 2015
As mentioned, Special Agent Nicole Strong with the A.T.F. did confirm that the fire in Houston appeared suspicious and had multiple points of origin. However, she also stated that it was still too soon to determine the cause and origin of the fire at the mosque in Houston. Shauna Dunlap, a spokeswoman for the FBI, reportedly stated that FBI personnel is aware of the fire, but not currently on the scene.
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