A fire at a Houston mosque Friday was declared suspicious by investigators following a string of arson incidents at Islamic places of worship in other cities. ATF agents said the fire at the Islamic Society of Greater Houston had multiple points of origin and is being investigated to determine if it was a hate crime, reported news station KHOU.
The fire started around 2:45 p.m. CST on Christmas Day, according to the Houston Fire Department. Around 80 firefighters responded to the scene. No injuries have been reported.
Update from investigators, they'll be here all night. There have been arsons @ mosques in other cities, so they want to get this right
— Stephanie Whitfield (@KHOUStephanie) December 26, 2015
The mosque and a nearby pharmacy were damaged by the smoke and heavy flames, according to officials.
A fire at a Southern California mosque earlier this month was determined to be a hate crime. Authorities believe the Dec. 11 fire at the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley was intentionally set and arrested 23-year-old Carl James Dial Jr. on suspicion of arson, hate crime and burglary, according to Reuters.
The fire sparked fears of anti-Islamic backlash following the Dec. 2 massacre in San Bernardino, California, by suspected followers of the Islamic State terror group. The Coachella mosque is about 75 miles away from San Bernardino.
“It's horribly lamentable that we would paint any group as undesirables based on the actions of an extremely small number of radical folks that don't represent the religion in any way,” Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit told the Los Angeles Times. “If in fact it was done with the mosque as a target ... it's reprehensible."