Suspected Arson Causes $1M in Damage to Catholic School in Ohio

The fire, which started outside the building, caused heavy smoke and structural damage to the cafeteria and gymnasium of St. Anthony of Padua School in Lorain.

Fire rips through a building containing the cafeteria and gymnasium of St. Anthony of Padua School in Lorain, Ohio, on June 30. An arson investigation is underway.
Fire rips through a building containing the cafeteria and gymnasium of St. Anthony of Padua School in Lorain, Ohio, on June 30. An arson investigation is underway. (photo: Screenshot from Ohio Commerce Department YouTube video / via CNA)

A building on the grounds of a Catholic school in northern Ohio sustained an estimated $1 million in damage from a fire Thursday. An arson investigation is underway, authorities said.

The fire, which started outside the building, caused heavy smoke and structural damage to the cafeteria and gymnasium of St. Anthony of Padua School in Lorain, a community on the coast of Lake Erie, Jeff Fenn, assistant chief at the Lorain Fire Department, told CNA Friday. 

Fenn estimated the damage at $1 million. He said the nearby parish church was not damaged.

Heat from the fire caused windows to “pop,” which allowed smoke to fill the whole gymnasium and cafeteria, Fenn said. The fire caused smoke and structural damage, he said.

Fenn told CNA he was baptized and received first Holy Communion at the parish.

“It’s close to my heart,” he said.

A tweet from the Ohio Department of Commerce says, “A $5,000 reward is available for information leading to the conviction of the person(s) responsible for this arson fire at St. Anthony of Padua School in Lorain.” 

Anyone with information about the arson is directed to call the Ohio Fire Marshall’s tip line at (800) 589-2728.

A Facebook post from St. Anthony of Padua parish Catholic school and preschool said, “There was a fire on campus very early this morning. Thankfully no one was hurt! It was an outside fire to the Social Hall & Gym. The fire was put out by the quick action of the Lorain Fire Department. An investigation is underway. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers!”

A follow-up post Thursday asked for continued prayers. 

It’s not clear if the fire is connected to pro-abortion violence directed at Catholic churches and pro-life organizations across the U.S.

Catholic News Agency has tracked on an interactive map vandalism related to pro-abortion activism since May 2022.

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