MUSKOGEE - Federal investigators have been asked to help determine the cause of a Christmas Day fire that heavily damaged the St. Paul United Methodist Church, authorities said Thursday.
State fire marshal's investigator Sam Pinson said the damage to the two-story church should exceed $100,000.
"It's going to be a big loss," Pinson said.
Muskogee fire marshal Norman Rogers said he wants the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to help investigate the blaze.
Rogers said fire investigators won't be able to get into the structure until today because the basement is full of water.
Pinson said the federal agents are needed to provide more manpower because of the large size of the church.
Authorities have given no indication that they believe the fire was set or any explosive device was employed to spark the blaze.
"It's an assist-type thing," Pinson said. "It's such a high-dollar fire, they're even going to have the arson dog come in and sniff around. If there is something there, they should find it. " A remodeling project for three of the church's floors was completed Saturday, said the Rev. Glenn Millard.
He said the fire will be a rallying cry for the congregation to rebuild again.
The fire was first reported about 9 a.m. Wednesday when people arrived for services at a church across the street.
Fire officials said a cause of the fire could not be immediately determined.
Services for the congregation's approximately 2,000 members will be held in a nearby activities building until a new church is built, Millard said. BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 489150