Tabernacle Baptist Church suffered smoke and water damage after fire broke out in attic Thursday

10:47 AM, Jan 20, 2012   |    comments
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Firefighters said they believe Thursday's fire at the historic Tabernacle Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in East Knoxville is not suspicious in nature.

"Right now, we believe the fire is contained mostly in the attic area," said KFD Assistant Chief Brent Seymour.

Fire broke out Thursday evening before 6:00.p.m. At the time, there were meetings held in the church's main floor.

"When I walked into church and sat down, one of the guys next to me said, I smell smoke," said Tracy Ray, who was inside the building when the fire broke out.

"By the time everyone got down the steps at the entrance of the church, we saw flames at the top of the fence where the attic was located," she added.

Tabernacle Baptist Church pastor Chris Battle was also inside the building. He thought at first there was fire at another building, until his worst fears were realized.

"We called 911 and there was fire coming out of the church," Pastor Battle said.
    
Firefighters arrived within two minutes to see smoke billowing from the structure and shock on onlookers' faces.

The older construction of the church played a role in how firefighters fought the flames.

"Once we did a search and saw that the fire was not in the lower levels of the structure, that kind of concern is a priority but put a little down on the list," Asst. Chief Seymour added.

While fire was contained to the attic, there's still damage done to the pews and other parts of the church.

"With any kind of fire like this, you're going to have water damage. Ther'es fire, and heat, and smoke damage. Right now, there's a fairly decent about of water damage in the balcony area," Seymour said.

While their place of worship was hurt, these churchgoers' spirits and faith is not damaged. A church can be rebuilt... But these members say their congregation will remain strong during this trying time.

"God takes care of this house and hope there's not too much damage done," witness Tracy Ray said.

An investigation team was on the scene Thursday night to examine a cause to the fire.

Pastor Battle believes they will not be able to clean up the damage for this week's service. However, he said he would like to see everything back to normal for the Tabernacle Baptist Church's 100th anniversary in March.

Previous Story: "Fire damages Tabernacle Baptist Church in East Knoxville"

The Knoxville Fire Department has extinguished a fire that tore through the attic of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in East Knoxville. 

The historic church is located at 2137 Martin Luther King, Junior Avenue and will celebrate its 100th birthday this March.

Fire crews received a call reporting smoke and flames coming from the roof at around 5:50 p.m.  Smoke was visible in the sky from more than a mile away.

The church's pastor, Chris Battle, said he noticed the smoke when he arrived for an afternoon meeting.

"At first I thought it was coming from a house behind the church.  Then we saw it coming out of the vent and called 911," said Battle. 

Battle said a meeting was already underway inside the church with around 25 to 30 people in attendance.

"I'm just thankful everybody got out safely," said Battle.  "We don't know the cause of the fire yet, but that's not our main concern right now.  We're just glad nobody was hurt." 

Battle said the next steps will be to determine how much damage the church has sustained and figure out where to hold church services.

"We'll have to find somewhere for Sunday service, but we'll have it even if we have to do it out here in the park," said Battle.

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