KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s been two months since a fire destroyed the Planned Parenthood clinic on North Cherry Street, and still no one has been charged.
City of Knoxville Fire Department Assistant Chief Mark Wilbanks said Wednesday investigators are still going through evidence and watching hours of nearby security camera video. Investigators revealed the day after the fire they believed the fire was set intentionally.
Wilbanks explained the scene took longer to process than other fires because of its size, and weather delays, including snow.
“There’s just a lot of stuff to put together when it comes to a larger scene like this,” he said. “They want to be very careful in how they determine how the fire was set, and who set the fire, before they make any arrests.”
Wilbanks says they have no new lead but investigators are still watching hours of security video.
“There’s just a lot of stuff to put together when it comes to a larger scene like this,” Wilbanks said. “So it takes a longer time. Sometimes fires are very easy to determine the cause, and if someone set it, it’s very easy to determine how it was set and who set it, but in this case, it’s just taking a little bit more time.”
In the meantime, Planned Parenthood officials are focusing on rebuilding. Aimee Lewis, vice president of external affairs and chief development officer for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, said they hope to have a new clinic completed in 18 months.
They’re currently waiting on their insurance companies for an exact plan and timeline before working with designers, architects. However, Lewis anticipates a new build to cost between $3-3.5 million.
“That health center has been in the Knoxville area for decades. So, it is a place where we know we are welcome and we are wanted. Our services are needed,” she said.
Lewis said donors from the Knoxville area, throughout Tennessee, and across the country are pitching in to help. She estimated nearly 2,000 donations have come in since the fire, totaling about $340,000. That’s on top of another pledged among of $775,000 from other donors.
The nonprofit hopes to secure a temporary location by September to resume some of the services they previously offered to patients, while they rebuild. They’re currently offering telehealth appointments and patient referrals to bridge the gap.
“There’s only so much volume, I think, other providers can absorb. That’s why we’re committed to getting back to serving as many patients we can as quickly as possible,” Lewis added.
There is a reward being offered of up to $10,000 for information leading to a successful prosecution. If you have any information, you can call 1-800-762-3017 or email KFDArson@knoxvilletn.gov.