Arsonists have caused major damage to a Leeds church that was already in a dangerous condition after repeated raids by metal thieves.
Separate fires were started in a Sunday school room and the sanctuary at Seacroft Congregational Church on Monday evening.
The intruders used hymn books and an old polling booth as kindling after breaking into the building, on Brooklands Avenue, around 6pm.
The church has long been blighted by thieves stealing metal from the roof as well as plumbing and wiring.
Problems became so bad that the congregation was forced to abandon the building in 2012 and has not met there since.
Church Minister, Rev Peter Lane, who lives in a bungalow next to the church, said: “More than anything, my concern is for the people going in there.
I regularly have to go in to check on the building and I dread finding someone has had an accident or worseRev Peter Lane, Seacroft Congregational Church
“I was worried for the firefighters having to go in there because I know the roof isn’t secure.
“I regularly have to go in to check on the building and I dread finding someone has had an accident or worse.”
Firefighters from Gipton and Stanks attended the incident.
They used hose reels and breathing apparatus to fight the blaze and a large fan to clear the smoke. It took about two-and-a-half hours to get the fire under control.
Rev Lane said the building had been left heavily smoke damaged but insisted: “I’m confident that the church will, phoenix-like, rise from the ashes.”