Investigators search for cause of East Knoxville church fire

Investigators search for cause of East Knoxville church fire

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Fire crews keep an eye on the roof which they had to cut through Monday to ventilate the fire. Fire crews keep an eye on the roof which they had to cut through Monday to ventilate the fire.
Rev. Leroy Franklin surveyed the damage, including the blackened steeple. Rev. Leroy Franklin surveyed the damage, including the blackened steeple.
The fire gutted parts of the church building. The fire gutted parts of the church building.

By ANN KEIL
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Investigators sifted through debris Tuesday after the fire at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in East Knoxville.

They have not determined the cause of the blaze at the church on Dandridge Avenue, according to Knoxville Fire Department spokesman D.J. Corcoran. However, it does not look like foul play was involved.

The fire started Monday afternoon, destroying the sanctuary and several classrooms.

Eight people were inside when it began, but they were able to get out safely because they smelled the smoke first.

High above the partially burned-out structure, the church steeple stands tall, still fastened to the blackened wooden beams that remain.

The rest of the building has smoke and water damage, which is unsettling news for the Knox County Alzheimer's Association. Through a partnership with Mt. Calvary, the association provides an adult day care program for seniors.

The day care participants were out of the building by 4:15 p.m. Monday. The 911 call about the fire came in at 4:42 p.m.

"I think it was God who let them out of there early, but you know usually they are there until 5:00 or 5:30," said Linda Johnson with the Alzheimer's association.

The program, closed this week, provides more than a dozen people with a safe place to stay five days a week while loved ones are at work.

The organizers are pulling together community resources and refusing to give up hope.

"I have more than hope. I'm just a little relieved when I walked through there," said church Pastor Rev. Leroy Franklin.

The reverend says he's relieved the newer additions to the church, equipped with fire walls and sprinklers, only have smoke and water damage. "No one is talking about the building. They were thankful for the lives that were saved."

Mt. Calvary is home to a congregation of more than 400 families.

"When I was driving up on the scene yesterday and saw the flames and the smoke, my heart just dropped. I just have so much invested in Mt. Calvary. This is where I came to know the Lord," said Deacon Davis.

"We will rebuild the sanctuary. We'll rebuild and well move on from there," Deacon Davis said.

Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also helping to determine the cause. Officials say it is standard procedure for ATF to help investigate church fires.

Fire crews continued putting out hot spots Tuesday morning.

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