Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fire Destroys Knoxville Black Church Sanctuary

THIS STORY COURTESY WATE-TV, KNOXVILLE, MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2010

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A huge fire Monday destroyed the sanctuary and several classrooms at the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in East Knoxville.

CLICK THE "PLAY" BUTTON TO SEE THE 11 PM VIDEO STORY ON THE MT. CALVARY BAPTIST CHURCH FIRE FROM WATE-TV:

video

There's no word yet on the cause of the blaze at the church at 1807 Dandridge Avenue.  Eight people were in the church offices and kitchen Monday at 4:42 p.m. when they smelled smoke. They headed toward the sanctuary, but heavy smoke forced them out. They called 911.

No one was injured. Fire crews were able to save the portion of the church that houses the kitchen and offices.  When firefighters arrived, they found thick hot brown smoke puffing from around every window, door and overhang.   If fire crews used horizontal air to fight the blaze, the conditions could have created a back draft which can be deadly, according to Knoxville Fire Department spokesman D.J. Corcoran.

Instead, crews cut ventilation holes in the top of the sanctuary and knocked out windows to allow the flames and smoke to escape vertically and prevent a back draft. That's when the flames burst from the building.
Around 30 firefighters responded to the church. Some crews used ladder trucks to douse the blaze from above. Others were able to fight the flames from inside after the fire was ventilated.



Church members stood across the street watching as the crews battled to save their facility.
"I know it's not a person, but it represents a lot of people," said long-time member Carrie Simmons. "I just had to come over here to witness it. I just couldn't believe it."




It took until about 7:00 p.m. for firefighters to bring the flames under control, but they stayed on scene through the night to put out hotspots.  Fire investigators have not been able to determine the cause of the fire yet because the steeple is unstable, making it too dangerous for them to enter.


Police say a drunk man was arrested for driving through the barricade set up at the church.

Mt. Calvary Baptist Church was established in 1913. The present building was built in 2005 and 2006.  In June 2007, Mt. Calvary opened an adult day program called "Howard Circle Of Friends," in partnership with the Knox County Alzheimer's Association.

Rev. Leroy Franklin serves as pastor of Mt. Calvary.

Dandridge Avenue will be closed through the Tuesday morning commute.