KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee Planned Parenthood building was destroyed by an early morning fire on Friday, Planned Parenthood officials said.
Knoxville Fire Department crews were called about 6:40 a.m. after heavy smoke was seen coming from the back of the structure, Assistant Fire Chief Brent Seymour told the Knoxville News Sentinel. The fire had already engulfed portions of the building, with flames coming out of the roof, by the time fire crews arrived, he said.
Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, released a statement to the media saying that no one was injured in the fire. The building has been closed since Dec. 7 for renovations.
“This is a huge loss for the community, and we hope that there are no resulting injuries or damage to neighboring properties,” Coffield said. “We are fully cooperating with the authorities as they assess the cause of the fire.”
Seymour said on Friday afternoon it was too early to know what caused the fire. Parts of the building were still unsafe to enter. Knoxville fire investigators were working with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Knox County Fire Department’s investigation unit while federal agencies have offered help if the fire’s origin is deemed suspicious.
The fire comes as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case that could severely curtail abortion rights that have stood for half a century.
“Any fire in a structure like that ... everything gets investigated,” Seymour said.
In January 2021 someone fired a shotgun at the doors of the same Knoxville clinic, shattering the glass and peppering the reception area with holes. At the time of the shooting, the clinic was closed and unoccupied.