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Fire hits Palin's church in Alaska

  • Story Highlights
  • Ladies' craft group escaped safely after fire broke out Friday night, pastor says
  • Officials considering arson, Wasilla Bible Church pastor Larry Kroon says
  • Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin apologizes if fire related to vice presidential nomination
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By Monte Plott
CNN
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(CNN) -- A "suspicious" fire devastated the church attended by Alaska Gov. and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Friday night in her hometown of Wasilla, the church's minister said.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin reportedly apologized for the possibility the fire was related to her nomination.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin reportedly apologized for the possibility the fire was related to her nomination.

"We have no idea what caused it," the Rev. Larry Kroon of the Wasilla Bible Church said Saturday, adding that investigators were considering arson and other possible causes.

A ladies' craft group was in the building when the fire broke out, but they got out safely, Kroon said.

"No one was hurt," he said.

Central Mat-Su Fire Department Chief James Steele said the department was "treating it as suspicious and as potential arson at this point" but did not elaborate, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

The newspaper said Palin released a statement after the fire in which she said she stopped by the church Saturday morning and offered an apology to the assistant pastor "if the incident is in any way connected to the undeserved negative attention the church has received since she became a vice presidential candidate."

Steele said that as many as 40 firefighters from his and neighboring departments fought the blaze, which started about 9:40 p.m. Friday (1:40 a.m. ET Saturday).

Firefighters were on the scene dealing with hot spots until about 5 a.m. Saturday, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The metal church building, which normally accommodates Sunday congregations of up to 1,000 people, was heavily damaged by flames and smoke, Kroon said.

"The fire investigators and insurance people are there now. There's definitely a lot of damage. I've heard the figure of $1 million, but I don't know for sure," he said.

Kroon said he was not at the church when the fire broke out and would not discuss what any of the church members who were there had reported to him.

He would not specify how many people were in the building at the time of the blaze.

"They were all adults, and they all got out. We're trying not to talk about specifics while investigators are still working on finding out what happened."

Kroon said the nondenominational church, which he described as "just a local community church," is about 30 years old and the church building itself is about 2½ years old.

The pastor said church services would be held on schedule Sunday in a nearby school.

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