Three burned in Easter Vigil blaze

| April 4, 2010

An Easter Vigil got off to a fiery start Saturday night when three people suffered serious burns outside Immaculate Conception Catholic Church downtown, authorities said.

A crowd of about 50 worshippers had gathered outside the church at 414 W. Vine Ave. around 9 p.m. for the blessing of the Easter fire, which was burning in a bowl filled with a mixture of alcohol and mineral salts, Knoxville Fire Department Capt. D.J. Corcoran said.

Two men and a woman were tending the fire as part of the Easter Vigil Mass when it suddenly blazed out of control.

"The fire had started to die down, and they were adding more fluid," Corcoran said. "The fire was in a container about the size of a large salad bowl. It flashed up and caught their robes on fire. It wasn't an explosion so much as a flash."

Church members jumped into action and put out the flames. Firefighters arrived within two minutes.

"They stopped, dropped and rolled, so the fire was out when we got here," Corcoran said.

An ambulance carried the three burn victims to the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Their names and conditions weren't immediately available Saturday night.

At least one of the injured serves as a deacon at Immaculate Conception.

Most of the burns were to the victims' faces and upper bodies, Corcoran said. He said their burns might be serious enough to require extensive therapy at a burn center such as Vanderbilt University's in Nashville.

The service continued inside the church as fire investigators tried to figure out what went wrong.

Firefighters called the blaze an apparent freak accident – one that's never created a problem during an Easter service before.

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Category: Church Security