Tennessee Church Fire Ruled Accidental; $1.5 Million Damage Cited

August 31, 2009

Chattanooga’s fire chief and federal investigators said a blaze that gutted the 88-year-old St. Elmo Methodist Church was caused by “antiquated wiring” that malfunctioned.

Police Chief Randy Parker said federal investigators were called in to assist because church fires in some other communities have been intentionally set.

The church burned Aug. 22 and sent smoke wafting over nearby Lookout Mountain.

No injuries were reported.

Officials said the church has $3.3 million in insurance coverage and the damage is estimated to be about $1.5 million.

Parker said structural engineers will have to decide if the building can be repaired.

The church was organized in 1883 and the current building was dedicated in 1921.

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