Fire Brings Down Building on Church Campgrounds

| December 18, 2009

A late night fire destroys the original home of a Tennessee Valley institution. The building was currently on the Signal Mountain campgrounds of the Church of God. But it provided the roots for what we know as the Bethel Bible Village.

The original cinderblock chapel however is now gone. Wednesday night it became a victim to flames so hot, so high, they brought the roof down and kept firefighters out. "We've had some minor collapse on the second floor," says Walden's Ridge Fire Chief Mark Serrano. "The walls are separating so we're reluctant to get anybody closer to the building and the collapse zone."

But by sun-up, the damage is clear even if the air around the church is not. Smoke still rises from the rubble and beyond the doorways is still too dangerous, even for firefighters. These cracked concrete walls might come crumbling down at anytime. It's all too much to take in for Lindel Brown, the caretaker of the campgrounds for the past quarter century. "I hated it" Brown says "because I watched after this place like a hawk."

Brown says the old building housed the original Bethel Bible Village back in the late 40's or early 50's and it still held up to fifty campers. "They had some people in here just two weeks ago. There was people staying in there just two weeks ago."

Even though Brown has a hunch of how the fire started, investigators will still have to get inside, among the soot-covered stacks of burning beds and Bibles to look for a cause, in a building where so many have found their purpose. "There'll be something probably," says Brown. "That'll be knocked down and there'll be some kind of building put back there."

The first investigators on the scene do not suspect foul play but it is routine for agents from both the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the ATF to be called in when a church is involved.

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Category: Church Security

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