Wilmer J. Ortiz Torres, 43, was arrested Friday and charged with arson, burglary and criminal trespass in the two fires that occurred between Tuesday and Thursday at the Iglesia Pentecostal de Bethlehem, police said in a statement.
The first of the fires erupted on Tuesday just before midnight. Police said that “it appears an individual entered the sanctuary area of the church and intentionally started the fire.”
Although the fire had already burned itself out by the time firefighters arrived, heavy smoke could be seen emanating from the building and firefighters had to vent the building to allow the smoke to escape. There were no injuries reported and the damage appeared to be due mostly to smoke, soot and heat.
Elizabeth Collado, the church minister’s daughter, told ABC Philadelphia station WPVI on Wednesday that the church “never had any problems with anybody around here.”
“You know, it makes us cry,” she continued. “We were talking about homelessness before. This feels like homelessness. Where do we go to worship? This is our house of worship.”
The second fire occurred around 2 a.m. Thursday morning. Police said that the fire was extinguished quickly and that it was contained to the roof of the building, where officials said it appeared someone had climbed up and ignited an accelerant.
Torres was arrested Friday in Allentown and arraigned on criminal charges Friday night, police said. It was not immediately clear if he had any connection to the church.