100-year-old church in Johnson County, Mo. destroyed by arson, fire captain says

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  • Picture of church on fire
  • Picture of fire ladder looking down on burned church
  • Picture of firefighter spraying water on destroyed church

LEETON, Mo. — A church in Johnson County that fire officials said was at least 100 years old burned to the ground last week, and officials believe arson is to blame.

Fire crews were dispatched to Harmony Baptist Church at 11:22 p.m. on July 5 to a 911 call when a nearby resident saw the fire, according to a statement from Captain Joe Jennings with the Johnson County Fire Protection District. When responders arrived, they found the church ablaze.

Firefighters attacked the fire, but it still took more than two hours to get it under control, according to the statement. Four fire stations responded, bringing more than 50,000 gallons of water to fight the fire.

The cause of the fire is believed to be arson. Investigators found security camera footage of a suspect who parked outside the church and entered the building right before the fire started. The first alarm to sound was in the church’s interior.

Picture of arson suspect
Picture from the Johnson County Fire Protection District.

“This fire is devastating to members of our community. We need our community’s assistance in finding those responsible for this fire,” Fire Chief Larry Jennings said in a statement.

The church has existed in some form since 1881, according to the Harmony Baptist Church website.

The arson is being investigated by the Missouri State Fire Marshal with assistance from the ATF. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Fire Marshal at 1-800-39-ARSON (1-800-392-7766) or the ATF by texting “ATFKC” to 63975.

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