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.”
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
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