(Updated at 6:30 p.m. Monday to include charges against the man suspected of setting the fire.)
An arson fire early Saturday morning seriously damaged Mattoon (Ill.) Christian Church. No one was injured.
Fire crews were dispatched to the blaze at about 4:45 a.m. after a police officer on patrol smelled smoke and tracked it to the church, according to a story at the Journal Gazette & Times-Courier website. The fire department is located across the street from the church.
There is extensive water damage to the brick building’s west side, and there is smoke and heat damage throughout the top two floors, fire chief Jeff Hilligoss told the newspaper. A dollar damage estimate hasn’t been determined.
The news story said the church has not yet decided on an alternative worship location. Mattoon Christian Church has been located in the building since the 1960s. The building’s construction dates to about 1920.
Michael Kallis, 41, of Mattoon, was arrested at 5:01 a.m. Sunday at the city’s train depot, according to the Mattoon Police Department’s Facebook page. Kallis was charged with arson to a place of worship, burglary, and theft of a motor vehicle.
Police allege that Kallis set fire to the church early Saturday morning, stole an item from within the church, and then stole a motor vehicle to get away from the scene.
“Kallis told investigators that he heard voices in his head that urged him to ‘help’ the church so he decided to burn it down in order that the congregation [could] obtain insurance money,” according to police. “Kallis is not a member of the church and only frequented the area due to a food bank being run from the church building.”
Police said methamphetamine likely played a major role in this incident.
A call requesting comment from the church has not yet been returned.