New Britain

Fires at New Britain Houses of Worship Were Intentional, Connected: Mayor

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Two fires at houses of worship in New Britain are believed to be intentionally set and connected, according to Mayor Erin Stewart.

Firefighters from several towns worked to put out fires at a church and a synagogue in the city, according to the mayor's office.

Crews first responded to 76 Winter St., a synagogue called Congregation Tephereth Israel at about 8 p.m.

NBC Connecticut
Crews battle a fire at Congregation Tephereth Israel in New Britain.

"The damage is pretty extensive, but thankfully the New Britain Fire Department showed up quickly and was able to knock it down," Stewart said.

Shortly after, firefighters received a report of a second fire at 99 Franklin Square, which is Saint Matthew Lutheran Church.

Stewart said this fire was much smaller than the one on Winter Street. No one was inside at the time of the fires and there are no injuries.

An NBC Connecticut crew at the scene saw a large emergency response presence as officials worked to put out the blaze.

About 20 minutes after crews were called to the fire on Franklin Square, they were notified of a burglary that happened at a third church on South Main Street.

Stewart said the church is a few feet away from Saint Matthew Lutheran Church, where the second fire happened.

"In my opinion, I think there's no doubt that these incidents are connected. This is just too coincidental to not believe that but obviously the professionals are going to do the investigations and they'll see what they can find," Stewart said.

"But this is definitely alarming. We never hear of situations like this where churches are targeted so it certainly has our backs up," she continued.

The mayor said it'll be a long night to pinpoint what exactly happened. There will be dogs out tracking scents and officials will see if they can find anything.

There will be an increased police presence out on Sunday to make sure people feel safe attending services, according to Stewart.

"The New Britain Police Department are under direct orders right now to go and do checkpoints and clear every single church in town throughout the remainder of the night. They'll be doing patrols and we're calling in extra staff to help with that, too," Stewart said.

Mutual aid was called in from several surrounding towns. Both fires are under investigation by the Fire Marshal's Office.

"There's no doubt about it I think this is cause for concern but rest assured we're going to get to the bottom of it, we're going to find out who is responsible and we're going to make sure they're held responsible for it," Stewart told NBC Connecticut.

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