Mt. Carmel Church van fire linked to Old HHS arson

An early morning fire on the grounds of Hattiesburg's Mt. Carmel Church has investigators fearing there may be a serial arsonist on the loose.

Torched steel and shattered glass are just about all that remains of two Mt. Carmel Church passenger vans following an early morning arson. A fire that Hattiesburg Fire Marshal Andy Cartlidge says appears to be linked to the recent blaze at the Old Hattiesburg High School.

"They're just a couple of blocks apart, the time of day, around 6 am this morning. Both of them are kind of secluded," he says.

Cartlidge also says both fires involved an accelerant as well as forced entry. And with such varied targets, authorities are fearing what may be next.

"They get more braver and more bolder and we want to stop it before there's a fatality."

Investigators believe the possible suspect or suspects are juveniles and likely live within blocks of both crime scenes.

"That's why we're at a point where we can't go any further. Their parents have retained lawyers and they refuse to take a polygraph."

But officials say they won't let it hinder their investigation, which involves the state fire marshal's office and other agencies.

"We also have ATF agents down here. Considering it is church property, we're treating it like we would an ordinary church fire."

Crimestoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the van fires at Mt. Carmel Church.

Meanwhile there's still an $8,000 reward in the Old Hattiesburg High School arson.