- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 3, 2015

ASHLAND, Wis. (AP) - The northern Wisconsin community of Ashland has stepped up to help members of a church destroyed by a fire that officials believe was intentionally set.

Police say Salem Baptist Church was set ablaze Saturday. A 29-year-old Ashland man has been arrested in the suspected arson.

Salem Baptist was planning to build a new building for its growing membership, with plans to use the current building for a community ministry center. But the fire left them with short- and long-term needs for space.

“Our building probably gets used six days out of the week and probably three-quarters of that is for young people,” senior pastor Rod Larson said. “Trying to find spaces where they can keep meeting immediately is our priority.”

The community’s high school has offered its gym for the church to use for its Sunday morning service, WDIO-TV (https://bit.ly/1M9O2cP ) reports. Larson said the congregation will meet there for a 10 a.m. service.

The Bay Area Youth Network, which used the church, will meet in the school’s auditorium for the rest of the year.

Other local churches have offered to let Salem Baptist use their space for meetings and offices. And Bay Area Rural Transit is giving its conference room to Salem Baptist.

“We were just very grateful,” Larson said.

The fire was the second major blaze on Halloween in Ashland in as many years. Last year, a three-story brick building on Main Street was destroyed, and authorities have said that fire was also intentionally set.



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