SYLMAR (CNS) – Three crosses outside a church in Sylmar were set ablaze today, prompting a hate crime investigation by police, fire and federal officials.

The Los Angeles Fire Department initially responded at 5 a.m. to a report of a rubbish fire outside the Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church at 13901 Polk St. But when crews arrived, they found only the smoldering wood crosses, one of which had toppled over, according to the LAFD.

Fire officials said the crosses appeared to have been doused in lighter fluid and set on fire. No injuries were reported.

As is standard protocol for fires involving churches, the House of Worship Task Force was notified and began an investigation. That task force includes the Los Angeles police and fire departments, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI.

Although the blaze was being investigated as a possibly hate-motivated arson, church Pastor Pierre Howard said he’s not convinced the fire amounts to a hate crime. He said it may have been done by someone who just made a bad decision.

“I hope that’s what it is,” Howard said.

He added, however, “It’s a shame people still want to do something like this.”

He said the church serves an array of different communities, including Latino and Black congregants, and it has never had any previous issues during its nearly 30 years of existence.

The church has video security, but Howard said the footage was not providing much help in identifying any suspects.

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