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

    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 estimate.”

    He said there was “considerable smoke damage throughout the building.”

    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 Park.
    • 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 fire.     
    1/26/2010 6:00:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

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