KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents are assisting the Knoxville Fire Department’s investigation into Friday’s fire that destroyed a Planned Parenthood Center, but officials say there is no evidence at this time that indicates the fire was intentionally set.
“It’s because it is Planned Parenthood, because of the political nature of Planned Parenthood,” said KFD Assistant Fire Chief Mark Wilbanks. “They’ve come in to assist in the investigation. Right now there’s no indication it was a suspicious fire, but potentially if it were, ATF would take over but right now they’re here to assist.
“All the alphabet agencies, if you will, will likely be involved to assist just because of what this building is and what it represents to the community.”
The building is a total loss. Knoxville Fire Department said they received a call at 6:39 a.m. about a building fire and when crews arrived on scene at North Cherry Street, the commercial building was “fully involved with fire through the roof.”
No injures were reported from the incident, said KFD spokesperson Assistant Chief Brent Seymour.
Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, released this statement on the fire:
“A fire occurred at Planned Parenthood’s Knoxville health center at 710 N. Cherry Street early Friday morning. Out top priority is the health and safety of our patients and staff and we can confirm that no one was hurt. The health center has been temporarily closed since December 7, 2021 for renovation. This is a huge loss for the community and we hope that there are no resulting injuries or damage to neighboring properties. We are fully cooperating with the authorities as they assess the cause of the fire.”
Coffield said the center has been closed for renovation since Dec. 7. A note was posted on the Parenthood Knoxville Health Center website to inform patients of the temporary closure.
“We are temporarily closed for renovation to enhance and expand our patient services. This closure is unfortunate but necessary to maintain our strict standards of safety, privacy, and care for our patients. We deeply apologize for any inconvenience. Please call us at 866-711-1717 to see if we can help you with telehealth or a prescription refill during this time. We look forward to celebrating with you at our grand re-opening in Spring 2022!”
In January 2021, police investigated after an unknown individual fired a shotgun at the doors of this Planned Parenthood location, which occurred on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The Federal Bureau of Investigation later joined that investigation. That investigation is still ongoing.
Wilbanks said a total of nine KFD units with 30 fire personnel responded to the scene and worked to get the fire under control. An investigation into the cause is underway.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated as additional information became available.