Investigators were sent to St. John's Cathedral in downtown Fresno early Friday after an arsonist poured a flammable substance, possibly gasoline, at the front doors of the historic structure.
The doors of the building at Tulare and R streets were blocked for a time as the incident was investigated, briefly interfering with a funeral.
Fresno Fire Investigator Lee Wilding said there was another report of an arson in dumpsters nearby on Calaveras Street on Friday morning, but it was not known if the incidents were related. Wilding said earlier reports of an arson attempt near the Fresno Police Department on M Street and Mariposa Mall and at a church in Fresno's Chinatown turned out to be unfounded.
Video surveillance recovered from cameras in front of St. John's show the suspect pouring a substance at the front of the church and igniting it. His first attempt to start a fire failed, but the second effort resulted in a large flash of fire that may have caused burns to the suspect, said Teresa Dominguez, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Fresno.
Dominguez said it was unclear why the suspect would want to damage the cathedral, but said the church wanted to reach out to him.
While making sure he is held accountable, she said it was important "to see what is going on in his life that would cause him to create (this) act of violence."
Anyone with information about the arson suspect is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 559-498-7867.