Westboro Baptist fire ruled arson

Ignitable liquid was in area of blaze's origin

The Capital-Journal, Kansas/August 27, 2008

An early-morning blaze earlier this month that damaged a garage at Westboro Baptist Church has been ruled arson, city officials announced Tuesday.

Topeka fire investigators said they received "positive confirmation" from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's laboratory that an ignitable liquid was present in the area of the blaze's origin.

The fire, which was reported around 1 a.m. Aug. 2, caused an estimated $10,000 in damage.

It burned sections on the south and east sides of the garage, located on the southeast side of the church in the 1200 block of S.W. Orleans. A section of a wooden privacy fence immediately south of the garage also was burned.

The garage, which is being repaired, housed a pickup truck and signs used by church members in their protests of homosexuals.

Pastor Fred W. Phelps Sr., 78, and his wife, Margie, 82, were asleep in the nearby church during the fire.

No injuries were reported in connection with the blaze.

Last week, church member Shirley Phelps-Roper showed two large, plastic trash containers that had melted in the fire. She said the containers had been on the south side of the garage between the structure and the wooden privacy fence.

Tuesday's announcement that the fire was arson came as no surprise to Phelps-Roper, who last week stated she was convinced the blaze had been set.

"No, not at all," she said Tuesday when reached on her cell phone during a protest near S.W. Huntoon and Gage. "From the facts they laid out that night, there was no question that's what happened."

Phelps-Roper said the church routinely receives threats, and she believed the arson was an attempt to silence its protests.

She said the arson or other threats wouldn't deter members from continuing their protests, including at this week's Democratic National Convention in Denver.

"It changes nothing," she said. "It's a wonderful token, that the Lord God will permit us to have this lot in the last hours of the last days of all."

The investigation into the fire continues.

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