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Arson fires reported at downtown Billings church, group living center

Arson fires reported at downtown Billings church, group living center
Posted at 5:54 PM, Sep 20, 2022

BILLINGS - A woman was arrested early Tuesday after police said she set several fires at a downtown Billings church and a nearby dormitory housing nearly 20 people.

Police said on social media the first incident was reported at a church shortly before 5 a.m. in the 100 block of North 33rd Street. Police did not identify the church, but St. Luke's Episcopal Church is located at 119 N. 33rd St.

A suspect set fire to the church and broke out several windows, police said.

“They seemed pretty diligent about trying to get a fire started. They just didn’t seem very capable,” Allen Kent, a parishioner at St. Luke's, said Tuesday. “The church still reeks of smoke pretty bad.”

Kent was the one who received the phone call about the alleged arson when it first happened.

According to Kent, trash and bible passages from a devotional were the main items used to try to ignite the fires.

“There were about five places where we found fire spots,” he said.

The Billings Fire Department estimated $10,000 in damages to the church.

“Those doors are solid oak, 100-and-almost-20 years old. So it’s a pretty big loss, historically speaking,” Kent said.

The main door at St. Luke's Episcopal Church was damaged early Tuesday by an arson fire. A woman from Wyoming was arrested.

About an hour later, police responded to the 100 block of North 31st Street for another reported arson at what police described as a dormitory housing more than 30 people. The Alpha House Pre-Release Center is located at 104 N 31st St., although police did not identify the building on social media.

There were 19 people inside the dormitory at the time of the arson, police said.

Billings Fire Department said minor damages were done to the center with minor smoke staining and rags charred in a wastebasket. Damages are estimated at $200.

A 43-year-old woman from Wyoming police identified as Jodi Moore was arrested on possible charges of felony arson and criminal endangerment, police said. She was booked into the Yellowstone County jail.

Moore also has multiple charges in Park County, Wyoming under the name Jodi Loftus, her former married name, according to The Powell Tribune. The charges there are criminal entry and drug and alcohol charges.

No injuries were reported.

Additional reporting by Hailey Monaco.