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Geneva calls in ATF after fire at church

Chared posts are all thremains trash benclosure First Baptist Church GenevWednesday June 20 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

Chared posts are all that remains of the trash bin enclosure at First Baptist Church in Geneva on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 23, 2012 7:15AM

GENEVA — Geneva police have called in the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to help with the investigation into Saturday night’s trash bin fire at the First Baptist Church of Geneva west campus.

Police Cmdr. Julie Nash said the investigation was turned over to the ATF as a “matter of protocol” because the fire occurred at a house of worship.

“There has been no determination if it was intentional — it is still under investigation,” ATF special Agent Tom Ahern said Wednesday.

Firefighters were dispatched at 8:49 p.m. Saturday to the 3400 block of Keslinger Road and found the church’s three trash bins engulfed in flames, according to fire officials.

The trash bins were in a wooden enclosure attached to the side of the building, but the fire did not spread to the building. Fire officials estimated damage at $5,000.

“We have a good idea the fire started in the dumpsters. We are examining evidence and conducting interviews,” Ahern said.

“There has been no determination as to the cause, origin or if suspects were involved if it was intentional.”

Ahern said the ATF is called in to investigate fires at places of worship in partnership with local authorities. The ATF conducts interviews, follows up on leads and brings in their own lab experts.

First Baptist Church spokesman Scott Salvati said the regular Saturday service was held hours earlier at 5 p.m. so it was unlikely anyone would have been in the building.

“Damage was done but nothing crazy. We are thankful that Geneva first responders arrived as quickly as they did,” Salvati said.

Salvati declined to comment about the ATF being called in.

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