MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An unoccupied home owned by a church in Orange Mound caught fire Monday night, and churchgoers say the home was a magnet for those seeking shelter.
The congregation at Mt Pisgah CME Church came together days ago to celebrate the unveiling of an honorary street sign at the corner of Park Ave at Marechalneil. It is in honor of the man who once pastored this house of worship.
But a longtime church member says the neighboring house owned by Mt Pisgah is why they came together Tuesday. Sadly, the home caught fire just before 11 p.m. Monday.
“It used to belong to one of our church members, and he sold it to the church,” the church member said.
The Memphis Fire Department confirmed the house was vacant but says there were multiple spots where flames were intentionally set from the front to the back.
It’s unknown who ignited the fire. However, the longtime church member we spoke to told us squatters were actually using a shed behind the home for shelter, and he believes they were the cause for the fire.
“Ain’t nobody live there in a long time. That back shed back there, people were living back there. I guess they were trying to keep warm, things I take for granted,” the church member said.
He went on to explain this is not the first time flames have ignited at this house in recent months.
The home, used by the church for storage, first caught fire when the temperatures dropped in October, causing some damage.
This second time around, the home is a total loss.But fire investigators said no lives were lost, which churchgoers call a victory in the face of utter devastation.
Fire investigators say total damages, including the loss of the house and the contents, stand at $12,000.
We reached out to Memphis Fire to find out how many vacant home fires they’ve had to battle over the last year. We’ll let you know once we hear back.