Authorities suspect arson

By AMBER BOLLMAN Daily News Staff Writer

An Ocean City home that was being renovated as a church was destroyed Tuesday afternoon in a fire that is being investigated as arson.

The building, located at the corner of Doodle Avenue and David Street, was completely gutted by the blaze, which broke out at about 2 p.m.

Smoke filled the surrounding streets, which were closed to traffic to give firefighters space to battle the fire.

Ocean City-Wright Deputy Fire Chief Randy Brown said the building was owned by New Beginnings Sanctuary of Praise, a church that had purchased the building in recent months.

"I don’t even think they had used it as a church yet," Brown said. "They were still renovating it and getting it fixed up."

The fire began in a storage room at the rear of the building and quickly spread throughout the interior.

Brown estimated it would take about $100,000 to rebuild the structure.

After the blaze was extinguished, fire investigators spent the afternoon combing through the charred remains. "There is evidence that accelerants were used," Brown said. "It has been classified as arson."

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the state fire marshal’s office.

No suspects or possible motives have yet been identified, and Brown said he is not aware of any suspicious activity witnessed around the building recently.

The pastor of the church, Alex Goodwin, could not be reached for comment.

A large Dumpster full of lumber, carpet and mattresses sat in the building’s front yard Tuesday, as neighbors said they had seen people in and out of the structure making repairs.

No one was inside the home at the time of the fire.

One firefighter was taken to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center for heat exhaustion but was treated and released, Brown said.