A fire last Friday night at a Northwest church has investigators looking into the possibility that an arsonist is targeting houses of worship.

Firefighters with Northwest Fire put out the blaze at Northwest Community Friends Church, 5950 N. La Cañada Drive, shortly after midnight on Friday, April 30.

The fire was the third in a spate of blazes that have damaged Northwest area churches over the past month. An investigation is focusing on arson.

"This fire has similarities to the other fires," said Northwest Fire spokesman Adam Goldberg. "They are suspicious in nature."

All of the fires occurred in neighborhoods near La Cañada Drive between Wetmore and Orange Grove roads, all were started near the entryways of the churches, and the three fires all started at roughly the same time, close to midnight.

The first fire occurred on April 9, at Flowing Wells Baptist Church at 4314 N. Romero Road. Damage to the church was limited because the fire was caught early.

The second blaze on April 26 damaged the Alliance Bible Church at 1301 W. Wetmore Road. The church also received minimal damage because the fire was detected quickly.

The most recent blaze caused considerably more damage, though the total cost of the damage has not been determined, Goldberg said.

"There was moderate fire damage to the first 20 or 30 feet inside of the sanctuary," Goldberg said.

Smoke damage was present throughout the building. In addition, the blaze rendered the structure unusable and without electric power.

An off-duty Oro Valley Police Department officer reported the fire after seeing smoke coming from the church building.

Because the church sits a short distance off the road, it likely burned longer before it was reported. It took firefighters 40 minutes to extinguish the blaze, Goldberg said.

No one was injured in the fire.

Pima County Sheriff's Department investigators have teamed up with Northwest Fire District to investigate the cause of the blazes.

Anyone with information is asked to call 88-CRIME or 9-1-1.

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