UPDATE: Fire that destroyed church on East 52nd Street ruled arson, reward offered
A reward of $5,000 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest.
UPDATE: A Chattanooga fire investigator says a fire at Piney Woods Baptist Church on East 52nd Street was arson.
Now a reward of $5,000 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest.
Anyone with information on this crime is asked to call the Tennessee Arson Hotline at 1-800-762-3017.
The fire was reported on Sunday, just hours before the Labor Day holiday.
Metal fencing and "keep out" signs line the outside of the church. It's the first time it's looked this way in its 46 years of existence.
“I don’t know who would be angry enough to do something like that to a church,” said Pastor Phynis Hall.
Hall says he has been in shock since last week, when he first learned his church was on fire. The church sanctuary burned for 20 minutes as firefighters battled the flames. No one was inside and at the time. The cause was unknown. Hall was told the fire started from his office, but he says he never suspected arson.
“Police officers that were there that night started saying you know it looked like an electrical fire and that’s where we were,” said Hall.
The loss has not been easy for the congregation, and sharing more bad news is something Hall says he's trying to find the strength to do.
“So far it has brought us closer together but at the same time there are a lot of broken hearts and things of that nature,” Hall said. “We just have to love on one another, treat each other the right way and God will see us through.”
It's not clear if the person behind the blaze had a personal vendetta. Regardless, Hall has a message for them.
“We love you. We pray for you. If you’re mad at God for some reason you need to talk to somebody. If you’re mad at someone in the church or even myself, come talk to us and let us know,” said Hall.
Hall will continue to hold Bible study and Sunday services at New Horizon Baptist Church.
If you would like to help rebuild Piney Woods Baptist Church, call Orlando Glover at 423-803-7562.
Stay with the WRCB app for updates to this story.
PREVIOUS STORY: A Chattanooga church will have to rebuild after a late night fire.
The fire was reported around 11:30 Sunday night at Piney Woods Baptist Church on East 52nd Street.
Firefighters said when they arrived flames were spewing from the church's roof.
"God is able he will take us through this,” Pastor Phynis Hall said. “It’s been test after test but without a test, you don’t have a testimony, so I know.”
For the past 46 years, Piney Woods Baptist Church has served Chattanooga, but Pastor Phynis says now it's hard to recognize.
Hours after Sunday's service, a fire sparked, burning parts of sanctuary for at least 20 minutes while fire crews worked to put the fire out.
Firefighters said no one was inside, but the damage left behind is shocking.
“My office is totally gone; the sanctuary is totally gone; everything on the first floor is pretty much gone. You can see lights and things that have fallen [and] melted, so it’s pretty extensive,” Hall said.
It's not clear what started the fire. Hall thinks it may have been electrical.
Starting over isn't easy, and Hall says he's up for the challenge.
But he says he hopes starting over doesn't mean moving to a new location.
“I don’t want to move; I think this is a pillar of the community. It’s a community church, so we want to stay here to be of service to the community so whatever happens, we’ll try our best to stay here," Hall explained.
It's not clear if the church can be repaired or not. In the meantime, Pastor Hall said they will have service at New Horizon Baptist Church on Wednesdays and Sundays.
The church is accepting donations to help rebuild. To find out more ways to help, call 423-356-0954. You can also reach out on the church’s Facebook page.
PREVIOUS STORY: Chattanooga Fire Department says they were called to Piney Woods Baptist Church at 11:38 Sunday night.
Six fire companies responded. Captain John Long reported flames visible through the roof at the back of the building. The fire was brought under control in less than 20 minutes.
There was no one in the church at the time of the fire. No injuries were reported. There was significant damage to the interior of the building. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
PREVIOUS STORY: A fire broke out at a church in Chattanooga Sunday night.
It happened after 11:30 on East 52nd Street. The address listed on the Hamilton County 911 log for the fire is the same as Piney Woods Baptist Church.
Dispatchers said firefighters saw flames when they arrived. No one was in the building at the time.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for more details on this developing story.