ATF, SFMO launch investigation into causes of three West Tennessee church fires

ZZ Aftermath at Trinity Methodist Church fire

Aftermath of the fire at Trinity Methodist Church/photo submitted

NASHVILLE (press release)—The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) in conjunction with the respective law enforcement and fire authorities are investigating the potential causes of three fires occurring at “Houses of Worship” in Haywood and Lauderdale Counties, Tenn.

All three fires occurred in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2015. The churches include:

  • Trinity Methodist Church, 5659 Nunn Road, Brownsville, Tenn. Haywood County
  • Springhill Baptist Church, 237 Springhill Road, Ripley, Tenn. Lauderdale County
  • Cowboy Church (nondenominational) 5880 Henning Orysa Road, Henning, Tenn. Lauderdale County

No injuries or fatalities were reported. Trinity Methodist Church is believed to be a total loss after the fire, while the other churches sustained smaller amounts of damage.

Causes of the fires are still being determined by ATF and SFMO investigators. The team is utilizing various resources such as accelerant canines and certified fire investigators to determine if the fires are intentionally set or accidental in nature.

On Wednesday, the scene-processing team began ensuring the structural integrity and safety of the scene prior to the process of making a determination of the potential cause of the fires. Once this is complete, investigators will focus on the origin of the fires and then make the determination as to the cause.

The investigation team is in the process of conducting interviews with members of the churches’ congregation, local business owners as well as individuals who may have information about the timeline of the fires. The information received will be matched with the results of the scene examination to determine the direction of the investigation.

Investigators are also checking other churches in the area who may not have staff present during the week in order to determine if there are any damages as a result of a fire or attempted fire.

The investigation of the scenes will continue for at least another two days in order to make the determination of a criminal or accidental cause.

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