Greene County church ‘total loss’ after fire

Local

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — A Greene County church was destroyed in a fire Tuesday. No one was inside the building, and no injuries were reported.

Sheriff Wesley Holt said the Riverview Community Seventh-day Adventist Church at 400 Sanford Circle was a “total loss.”

Callers reported the fire to Greene County 911 around 4:10 p.m. By 8 p.m. flames were no longer visible and firefighters reported the fire under control. The Riverview Community Seventh-day Adventist Church, however, was just a shell. The roof had caved in, and smoke billowed out from within.

Holt said firefighters arrived to find utility lines down and flames coming from the roof.

South Green Fire Chief David Weems said no foul play is suspected in the cause of the fire at this time.

The sheriff said, as normal procedure with the sheriff’s department, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and ATF were called to investigate the cause of the fire.

South Greene was the first department to arrive on scene, but they were forced to call for back-up from Greeneville Fire Department and six other volunteer fire departments.

At first, crews attempted to enter the building, but were pushed back due to heat and heavy smoke, Weems said.

“It was determined that the fire was in the attic; therefore, it was unsafe for firefighters to be inside so we had to conduct an exterior attack at that time,” Weems said.

Fire spread from the attic to the rest of the building, eventually forcing the roof to collapse. Weems said strong winds impeded the response, causing the fire to spread quickly.

The Riverview Community Seventh-day Adventist Church — now burnt and collapsed — was a place of worship for many, including Kevin Toppenberg, a 10-year member.

“I’m sad for the loss of our church, but praise God, that again that we’re all here and that everyone seems to be safe,” Toppenberg said.

Weems reported that crews were able to retrieve several Bibles from inside the church.

“They may be able to recover some more items from inside the church, but we’ll have to wait for the fire to be completely extinguished,” Weems said.

Toppenberg said the congregation will be thankful to have something to remember their old church.

“I’m just happy to have the bibles. I’m glad no one was harmed going in and getting them,” Toppenberg said. “That’s good to have. It’ll be a good momento.”

Crews are working overnight Tuesday to make sure all hotspots are put out and no flare-ups occur.

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