Updated: Misinformation led to arson possibility
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor
January 26, 2010

Updated: Misinformation led to arson possibility

Updated: Misinformation led to arson possibility
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor
January 26, 2010

A Greensboro fire official called a church fire accidental

after early police and media reports said it was possibly arson.

“It never was considered arson, said David Douglas,

assistant chief with the Greensboro Fire Department. “We never considered the

fire — any part of it — to be intentionally set.”

The Greensboro

News-Record reported Tuesday that fire and police responded to a call at Lindley

Park Baptist Church at 8:57 a.m. Monday.

The department has not issued a final report yet but Douglas

said an outlet did not have a cover plate. The department believes there was an

electrical arc from the outlet to items in a storage room in the basement where

the fire started.

A final report will be issued Thursday.

Douglas said original reports of $15,000 in damage were “a conservative


He said there was “considerable smoke damage throughout the


Instead, it was closer to $100,000 property loss and an

estimated $500,000 loss on contents.

Douglas said fire went “in every conceivable direction.”

Tips for churches

Douglas, who is fire marshal for Greensboro, said there are

some simple things churches can do to cut down on the risk of fire, or at least

on the amount of damage done if a fire occurs.

Each year churches are inspected by a local fire official to

determine any code violations and make recommendations.

“Church fires are so infrequent,” he said. “Generally there

are many causes, but really three main causes — Men, women and children.”

A problem with churches is the periodic occupation. Many

churches have services Sunday and Wednesday but have sporadic events during the

rest of the week. Usually only the church leaders, mostly the pastor, know what

the fire report said, and recommendations don’t usually get passed along.

Someone might think it’s harmless to leave a door open.

  • Churches should close doors.

“Throw away door stops and keep the door closed. The problem

with churches is that there seems to be a tremendous amount of complacency

about doors,” Douglas said. “They feel free to prop those open. They are put

there for a reason. We call them containment areas.”

With doors closed, the fire damage stays “in as confined an

area as possible.”

In the case of Lindley Park, Douglas said all the doors in

the basement were open, including the storage room where the fire started.

He said closing the doors wouldn’t have prevented the fire

in this instance, but it would have limited the damage. A Greensboro News-Record article said Pastor Scott Orr announced Sunday morning services will go on as scheduled.

  • Keep receptacles covered.

Douglas said people don’t think leaving receptacles

uncovered is a problem, but there is electricity in those wires. Covering the

receptacle cuts down on the arcing problem he believes happened at Lindley


  • Be vigilant in housekeeping.

“Churches are like packrats. They don’t want to throw

anything away because they don’t know when they’ll need it,” Douglas said. “Keep

what you need; throw the rest away.”

Another option is donating to other churches or the local

association. If your church did the most recent Vacation Bible School last

year, why are you still hanging on to all the decorations and materials.

Another church, that might not have much money, could recycle the materials in

their community.

Douglas said there was another church fire in the area last

winter during a snowstorm. That one was caused by an electrical fault in the

service panel. A few years ago, a dehumidifier in a piano caused another church