Page last updated at 18:03 GMT, Sunday, 1 June 2008 19:03 UK

Church hall fire treated as arson

Ponsanooth fire: Picture Ted Dean
The roof collapsed within minutes of the fire brigade arriving

A fire which completely destroyed a Cornish Methodist church is being treated as suspicious.

Emergency services were called to the hall in St Michael's Road in the village of Ponsanooth, near Truro at about 0530 BST.

Renovations on the hall, which was used by a number of community groups, had just started after local people had managed to raise thousands of pounds.

The police and fire brigade have said it may have been started deliberately.

A joint investigation has begun and the burned-out remains are being treated as a crime scene.

Investigator Chris Ruberry from Cornwall Fire Brigade said it had been a "very vicious fire" and the roof had collapsed within minutes of the brigade arriving.

No-one was injured in the fire, but villagers said they were devastated by the blaze.

Methodist church hall remains, Ponsanooth
Twenty-eight children attend the pre-school play group in the hall

The church hall was used for a number of activities, including a pre-school nursery for 28 children and local Brownies group.

"I asked my husband if I should put some clothes on to try to rescue some of the things, but he said there was nothing to rescue," one distressed villager told BBC News.

Arthur Cowburn, the Methodist Superintendent Minister, said he had been concerned about finding alternative facilities but the Anglican church has now offered to help the groups who regularly used the hall.

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