Police are questioning a pastor's granddaughter in a fire that damaged a longstanding church in Jersey City, authorities say.
Firefighters rushed to the Tabernacle Temple after a someone outside the church saw smoke and alerted firefighters at the fire company next door.
The fire started in two separate locations on the first floor, according to authorities, and investigators removed an orange gasoline canister from the church.
"We had a good fire here on the first floor, it's under investigation for arson," said Bill McClintock of the Jersey City Fire Department.
Police are questioning the pastor's 24-year-old granddaughter, who was outside the building at the time of the fire. She had been smoking in the church, according to authorities.
But pastor Barbara Allen said, "I saw her and asked her, and I asked her did she do it, and she said no. She denies doing it."
Barbara Allen said her granddaughter has been "in crisis" and was released from the hospital earlier this week, but didn't detail why had been in the hospital.
The pastor's husband and founder, 100-year-old Ben Allen, said they still hope to have services here on Sunday for their small and aging congregation.
"After the fire, we'll still have church," he said. "Upstairs, I'm glad she didn't do anything up there."
He also said he's thankful no one was hurt.
The church opened in 1965 and was once a Seventh Day Adventist church before it became the Tabernacle Temple.