UPDATE: According to the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office, firefighter Leslie Winchester confessed to the series of fires late Friday night. He is currently being held on a $1.7 million bond.
WAVERLY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A community still trying to recover from the deadly floods has now been hit by a series of suspicious fires. The city of Waverly has had more than a half dozen fires over the last 30 days, including a firehall, a Masonic Lodge and a church.
The Glenwood Church of Christ on Pumpkin Creek Road is surrounded by crime scene tape. With a collapsed roof, the congregation has lost their home.
“If we decide to rebuild, we will have to tear that down and start over from scratch,” Minister Dean Duke explained.
The quaint white building once served as a school house before the congregation took over more than half a century ago; Duke said it is a complete loss following a fire Sunday night.
“The collapse of the roof, the main structure walls and the foundation itself were all damaged in the fire,” Duke explained.
The church is one of many suspicious fires in Waverly now under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
“We are calling them suspicious fires; we haven’t confirmed that they are arson at this point. At this point we’ve had seven or eight fires in the last 30 days,” Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis told News 2.
The fires have grabbed the sheriff’s attention, while shifting the congregation’s prayers.
“As far as the congregation itself, we came together, we prayed and we will find an exit out of where we are because that’s what we do. Anytime something like this happens we have to realize it effects more than just the immediate people involved, it effects a community. Waverly and Humphreys County has [gone] through a lot over the last few months and this doesn’t help to bring stability or peace of mind back to the community. So what I ask is for prayers. Anyone who is God-fearing, not only find a way through this, but that we also find the peace that we need in this community so desperately,” Duke said.
While Sheriff Davis is hopeful the destruction will stop, he is asking the community for help.
“We need eyes and ears. If there’s somebody out there that’s doing this, we need eyes and ears and we need our community that’s coming together so strong every day to really focus on and watch some of these places in those outlining areas, and be that good neighbor that if you see something suspicious, report it, call us, get ahold of us,” Sheriff Davis said.
The sheriff says the fires have been difficult to battle in the heat and, also due to the rural locations of the structure, firefighters have had to bring water in to fight the flames. He says a firefighter was transported to the hospital after suffering an arm and knee injury while fighting the flames at the Cotton Valley Mason’s Lodge.
Anyone with information on the suspicious fires is asked to call the sheriff’s department 931-296-2301.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is offering a cash reward for pertinent info leading to the identification of any person who may be behind the series of fires.
If you have any information about this case or others, you’re asked to contact the Tennessee Arson Hotline at 1 (800) 762-3017. All callers to the Tennessee Arson Hotline are considered anonymous and may be able to earn a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest or conviction.