‘A big part of our community is gone’: TBI assisting in investigation after Greene County church destroyed in fire

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CHUCKEY, Tenn. (WJHL) — An investigation is underway in Greene County after a church was destroyed in a fire Tuesday afternoon.

The fire happened at the Union Chapel Free Will Baptist Church in the 5900 block of Erwin Highway.

“The investigation is being conducted by the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, our detectives and our arson investigator,” Greene County Sheriff Wesley Holt said. “We also have the TBI that’s assisting us on this investigation, their bomb and arson section, and we’re using the ATF on this investigation.”

Holt said he’s hoping to have a result of the investigation by the end of this week or first of next.

“We’re not saying this is suspicious or anything like that but that we bring in to try to determine the cause of this fire,” Holt said.

“Lot of people don’t go to church, but they came by last night and noticed a big part of our community is gone,” Zak Neas, son of Union Chapel Free Will Baptist Church’s pastor, said.

No injuries were reported.

Firefighters say they were fighting the fire from inside the church but they got out before the roof collapsed.

Multiple fire crews responded to the scene.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told News Channel 11 on Wednesday morning that they are assisting the Greene County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation into the fire.

The church, which was built in 1974 and was a place of worship to more than 60 people in the Chuckey community, was more than just a church to many.

“It’s been standing so long. It was put together ’74 and I was born in ’75, and it’s gone. It’s very heartbreaking,” said Gidget Fox. “It’s part of my childhood. It’s part of the community. It’s just devastating. As soon as I saw the smoke I kind of thought was another church, but when I saw this, I was just instantly to tears.”

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

“They’ll build back,” Holt said. “They’re strong, resilient, so they will build back here I’m sure.”

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