Arson: Vicar ‘feared petrol may caused an explosion’ outside church

Reverend Dr Bernard Minton checking the cables and the burnt out moped. Photo by Richard Watts
Reverend Dr Bernard Minton checking the cables and the burnt out moped. Photo by Richard Watts

The vicar at St Barnabas Church, Linslade has praised the fire service for their quick response after a moped was set on fire behind the church.

The incident happened on Saturday, December 3, during a Christmas Concert at the Parish Church in Vicarage Road.

Linsdale Singers were taking part in the concert when they smelt burning rubber. They alerted the team vicar, Reverend Dr Bernard Minton, who called Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue.

Officers attended the scene and extinguished a moped which had been set on fire.

The quick response meant that there was no damage to the church and the Christmas Tree Festival over the weekend continued as planned on Sunday afternoon.

Fr Bernard said: “It was during the interval of the concert, when I was alerted, I too could smell burning and then I was worried about what might be on fire.

“As soon as I went into the glass link between the church and the hall, I could see the firelight, and going outside it became apparent that there was a fierce fire going on.

“As soon as I saw the motorbike, I knew we should dial 999, we were worried that any petrol might explode, or that neighbouring trees or hedges might catch light.

“I was worried for the safety of our surroundings and the concert-goers, and I was also cross at the thoughtless vandalism and destruction.

“The fire brigade were wonderful, they arrived very quickly, the fire was burning out by then but they were able to make it safe.”

The vicar and the fire officers inspected the fuse boxes and cable runs for damage and an electrician was called to do a safety check on the circuit.

Richard Watts, a member of the choir, said: “Once the fire was out the Reverend checked the area and found electrical feed cables burned. The fire officers wanted to do some checks so we had to move the piano so they could access the distribution box behind the organ.

“They said we would need an inspection and that the distribution box feeding the electricity on the north side of the church would need to be disconnected pending an inspection.

“We were due to have the Christmas Tree Festival the next day and would need all the electrics switched on. Fortunately the electrician was able to come out immediately and tested the circuit which was safe to use.”

Since the fire, the owner of the scooter has been in contact with Fr Bernard. He said: “He had already reported the theft of his bike from the station after that afternoon.

“I don’t know if the police will take it any further but I should add that the day before we had reported finding a presumably stolen bicycle and several severed bike locks in the same area behind the church. It is clear that the church will have to take some measures to make that area less secluded.”