Churches warned about arson

Published December 1, 2007

An insurance company that specializes in churches and faith-related groups is cautioning churches to take precautions since arson has become one of the most serious threats to places of worship.

Ecclesiastical Insurance believes that most houses of worship do not take enough measures to protect their buildings and properties.

The company said in a news release that there has been a rash of fires across Canada this year, the latest of which occurred Oct. 7 when two historic churches were destroyed by arson in Cannington, Ont., a small town southeast of Lake Simcoe, according to Jacinta Whyte, general manager and chief agent for Ecclesiastical Insurance. A 17-year-old resident was charged with setting the fire that completely destroyed the 144-year-old Knox Presbyterian church, and partially ravaged the nearby Trinity United Church.

Many churches are seen as “soft targets” for arsonists, said Ms. Whyte, who explained that churches are typically unoccupied for much of the week, are relatively easy to break into and once inside, ignition sources and combustibles can be readily available.

Ecclesiastical Insurance listed some steps to help deter potential arsonists:

  • Restrict entry by locking doors and windows. Make sure locks can withstand a person attempting to break in. Keys should not be left lying around. Always know who has sets of keys. When the house of worship is open, there should be a visible staff member or volunteer caretaker around.
  • Install security lights, including perimeter floodlighting and motion-activated lights at doors and windows. Use timers on interior lights and make sure interior lighting is visible from the outside.
  • Lock up sheds; store ladders and tools.
  • Combustibles such as candles, matches, paints, cleaning and other flammable liquids should be locked in a metal security container and stored in a locked shed.

For more tips, visit the Ecclesiastical Insurance Web site at


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