-- Authorities have confirmed a seventh church fire in the St. Louis, Missouri, area in nearly two weeks, calling it "very disturbing."
St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said today that around 1:30 a.m., a call came in alerting authorities to a fire at the Shrine of St. Joseph Catholic Church.
The fire was started at the front door of the church's rectory, Jenkerson said, noting that while the fire was similar to the blazes started recently at six other churches -- damage was done to the front door -- the Shrine of St. Joseph was not in the same neighborhood as the other buildings.
Also, according to a priest who serves at the Shrine of St. Joseph, the other churches were much smaller.
"It's kind of a mystery," the Rev. Dale Wunderlich said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Why would anybody want to vandalize a place like the Shrine of St. Joseph?"
Wunderlich said no one was in the rectory at the time of the fire. There were no reported injuries. Wunderlich said that while the fire had been confined to the entrance, the door would need to be replaced. He did not have an estimate on how much that would cost.
On Tuesday, federal investigators said they believed that the string of fires in the greater St. Louis area may have been set by the same person.
"We believe that this fire-setting activity is meant to send a message. We believe this activity may be the result of stress experienced in the subject's life, which may be noticeable to those around him or her," the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in a statement Tuesday.
The ATF noted that all of the fires had originated at the exterior doors of the churches and that none of the churches had been occupied when the fires were started.
The first of the seven church fires was reported on Oct. 8. The person responsible for the fires does not appear to be targeting one particular religion, authorities said, noting that Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran and non-denominational churches have all been affected.
A $9,000 reward has been offered for any information leading to an arrest in the church fires.