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Gulfport investigating fire as arson (updated 6:30 p.m.)

GULFPORT - A fire in a two-story building on Arkansas Avenue in North Gulfport is being investigated as arson, Gulfport Fire Department Chief Mike Beyerstedt said this evening.

The fire, reported at 4:40 p.m., extensively damaged a two-story cinderblock building owned by the Greater Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church next door. Beyerstedt said the building was unoccupied and boarded up.

"There's no natural way that this place could have caught on fire," he said. "It could have been people camping out who started a fire, but I'd say that's unlikely."

Beyerstedt said the Police Department is assisting Fire Department investigators with the arson investigation. He said firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, although the fire was fully involved when they arrived. Firefighters responded with a ladder truck, three fire trucks, a rescue truck and a command car.

The fire started on the second floor, with water damage to the first floor.