The fire that tore through Knoxville’s Planned Parenthood clinic on New Year's Eve was arson, fire department officials said Thursday, confirming the fears of health care workers and activists alike who thought the blaze was an act of hate.
No suspects are in custody, and the Knoxville Fire Department urged community members to share information that could help investigators by calling 800-762-3017 or emailing KFDArson@knoxvilletn.gov. People who provide tips can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward up to $10,000 for information that leads to the prosecution of anyone responsible.
Planned Parenthood officials pledged to rebuild the facility, which is the organization's only branch in East Tennessee.
"We are heartbroken at the loss of our beautiful new building, but I'm here to tell you that we are committed to Knoxville and East Tennessee, and we are determined to rebuild. Knoxville wants Planned Parenthood, our patients need us to be here and we are going to be here," Ashley Coffield, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, said at a Thursday press conference at the site of the burned-down clinic.
The fire was the second act of violence against the clinic in the past year. In January 2021, someone fired a shotgun at the clinic's doors, shattering the glass and peppering holes in the reception area. At the time of the shooting, the clinic was closed and unoccupied.
On Friday, the building erupted into flames that shot through the roof and destroyed the building. The clinic, which had been shut down for several weeks for a $2.2 million renovation, was unoccupied during the fire.
Planned Parenthood has not shared details about how the clinic will manage health care services in the coming months, though patients were being referred to telehealth services or to Planned Parenthood clinics in Nashville and Memphis while the building was under construction, a Planned Parenthood official said last week.
Fire department investigators and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were hampered by snow showers and poor weather, but by Thursday morning had inspected the building's ruins and determined the fire was intentionally set.
Tyler Whetstone is a Knox News politics reporter focusing on Knoxville and Knox County.
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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Knoxville Planned Parenthood fire was arson, investigators say