Church fire

A Los Angeles firefighter walks through what's left of the Bethesda Temple Church on Crenshaw Boulevard after an early morning blaze gutted the interior. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / April 26, 2013)

Los Angeles Fire Department arson investigators are using accelerant-detecting dogs in their probe of a Friday morning fire that gutted a Leimert Park church.

“We’re treating it as a criminal fire at this time, suspicious in nature until we can determine otherwise,” LAFD Capt. Jaime Moore told KTLA.

The fire was reported before 2 a.m. at Bethesda Temple Church on Crenshaw Boulevard. Video showed flames tearing through church windows and plumes of black smoke climbing into the night sky.

More than a dozen fire engines and nearly 100 Fire Department personnel responded to the blaze, officials said. It took them about 50 minutes to extinguish the fire, KTLA reported.

Church congregants were distraught. The church had been in the community since 1952.

“This is the church where we worship at. ... It’s burned down, but we are the church, you know,” one woman told the TV station. “So we’ll just rebuild and keep praising the Lord.”

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joseph.serna@latimes.com

@josephserna