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Federal Investigators Called to Macon Church Fire | News

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Federal Investigators Called to Macon Church Fire
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Right now, federal investigators are on the scene of a southwest Macon church fire.

Monday morning, local fire officials were investigating the blaze at Reaching Souls Cathedral on Bethesda Avenue.

And 13WMAZ's Judy Le says officers from the federal Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms also arrived just before noon.

Sergeant Ben Gleaton of the fire department says that's routine, because the federal agency investigates all church fires.

"Basically they're investigating the scene, looking for different indicators of the fire," says ATF Macon field officer Morgan Fisher.

The Macon-Bibb Fire Department started battling the blaze just after 12:30 a.m. Monday morning.

The roads around the church were shut down for hours.

The flames appeared to be coming from buildings on the property of the Reaching Souls Cathedral in the 5500 block of Bethesda Avenue -- just off Rocky Creek Road.

Crews were battling the fire until well after 3 a.m.

Investigators plan to go inside the building this morning to figure out what happened.

Vickie Heard and her father, Herbert Rountree, drove by the church to see what's left of the building.

"We spent thirty plus years with that church," says Rountree.

"I guess all good things have to come to an end. All things happen for a reason so we'll just have to see the reason behind this is," adds Heard.

The church was at the center of a 2008 trial when its pastor, Onslow Ross, was convicted of 54 federal charges, including bank fraud, money laundering and various other illegal transactions.

Ross was accused of taking money from an insurance settlement for the church and using it to pay for personal items.

The trial split Ross's congregation; some members testified against him and other said he'd done nothing wrong.

Ross was sentenced to more than 10 years in federal prison.

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