A former member of Iglesia Pentecostal de Bethlehem church in Bethlehem Pennsylvania is accused of setting two fires to his former church this past week.

According to Philly.com

“Bethlehem police say 43-year-old Wilmer Ortiz Torres was arraigned Friday night on arson, criminal trespass and burglary charges. He had been arrested earlier in the day after authorities reviewed surveillance video from a public housing complex across the street from the church.”

The first fire at the church occurred Tuesday (April 23, 2019) which gutted the sanctuary and

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Photo Credit: Sarah Cassi | leighighvalleylive.com

caused smoke and water damage. A second fire was set Thursday (April 25, 2019) on the church roof but was quickly extinguished.

No injuries were reported in either fire.

Torres reportedly had issues with the church.  No further details were provided further. According to investigators, Torres allegedly used an accelerant in the arsons. The first fire caused extensive smoke damage.  The fire apparently was choked out due to a lack of oxygen.  The second fire was set on the roof of the church above the sanctuary.  A passerby observed the fire, contacted the fire department, and the flames were extinguished.

Bethlehem Fire Department arson dog Silver sniffed out the accelerant both times. Fire Marshal Craig Baer declared both fires arson.  Investigators checked video from surrounding businesses, which enabled them to identify the suspect.

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Church Arson suspect Wilmer J. Ortiz Torres, 43, of Allentown, PA

The suspect, Wilmer J. Ortiz Torres, 43, of the 500 block of West Chew Street in Allentown is in custody.

The investigation is a joint venture with local police and the ATF.  The ATF responds when arson involves a church. Sunday services will be held for churchgoers at First Presbyterian Church from noon to 3 p.m. A GoFundMe page has been set up for the church asking for donations to help rebuild it.

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