UPDATE: ATF offering award for information on church arson - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: ATF offering award for information on church arson

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BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have increased an award of up to $7,500 for any information leading to the arrest of those responsible for a fire at Christian Outreach Church. 

Anybody with information should call the TENNESSEE ARSON HOTLINE at 1-800-762-3017.


PREVIOUS STORY: Bradley County Sheriff's Office have confirmed they're investigating an arson at Christian Outreach Church in Cleveland.  

Deputes were responding to a burglary in progress around 2:30 a.m. Sunday on at 225 Rabbit Valley Road. When arriving on the scene, deputies requested Bradley County Fire and Rescue to respond to the scene after observing massive amounts of smoke inside the building. Once firefighters arrived, over half of the structure was engulfed in flames.  

Witnesses at the scene advised a person was seen running away from the church towards wooded area adjacent to the church before patrol deputies’ arrival.

Neighbors said they woke to flashing lights, before realizing what happened.

"You could see the lights flashing up against the wall in the living room window and it was the entire inside my living room was lit up like a Christmas tree," said Melanie Williams. "There were fire trucks all the way down the road that and all the way down road that way and I was like what is going on."

Williams said she's focusing on the positive in the situation. 

"[I'm] just praying nobody got hurt, and if nobody got hurt that's probably the best silver lining you could ask for."

Upon further investigation, photos were recovered from a surveillance system that captured an individual inside the church before it caught fire, who is now being considered a person of interest. Investigators are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the person captured in the photographs. The church's pastor, Sieglinda Sherrill, tells Channel 3 that the church has been broken into four times in the past two weeks.

On Friday, a juvenile was charged with burglary at the church. 

Sherrill estimates between $20,000 and $30,000 in fire damage inside the church, while damaged electric wires, melted siding and insulation sit outside in the church's yard. 

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance is offering a cash award of up to $5,000  for any information leading to the capture of the person or persons responsible for the arson. Anybody with information should call the TENNESSEE ARSON HOTLINE at 1-800-762-3017.

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