By Chris Boyette | CNN
The fire that destroyed a Planned Parenthood facility in Tennessee on New Year’s Eve was intentionally put out, Knoxville Fire Department said Thursday.
The fire took place just after noon. 06.30 New Year’s Eve when firefighters rushed to the facility with nine firefighting units and 30 firefighters. The fire completely destroyed the building, the department said, calling it a “total loss.”
The building was being renovated at the time of the fire, so it was closed to business and no damage was reported, the fire department said.
Knoxville Fire Department investigators, along with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), conducted a thorough scene investigation of the fire on December 31, 710 N. Cherry Street – Planned Parenthood and determined that the fire had been deliberately put out by one or more people who currently remain unidentified, the fire department said in a statement.
Authorities have offered a reward of up to $ 10,000 for information leading to prosecution of everyone involved in the fire.
Planned Parenthood has more than 600 health centers throughout the United States that offer a variety of reproductive health services, including abortion.
The arson was not the first time the Knoxville plant was attacked.
On January 22, 2021 – the anniversary of the landmark Roe v Wade abortion ruling by the Supreme Court – someone shot out the front glass door of the facility, and bullet holes were also found throughout the back of the front reception area, according to Knoxville police. .
The fire comes amid a nationwide debate over abortion unfolding in U.S. courts. Recently, abortion providers asked the Supreme Court to demand that a conservative federal appeals court return their appeal of Texas’ six-week abortion ban to a district court judge who previously ruled in their favor.
Planned Parenthood described the arson as appalling and said it would be rebuilt.
“As the investigation continues, Planned Parenthood is now turning to improvement and renewal,” said Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in Tennessee and North Mississippi. “Our priority is to establish a safe operating site and recall services to our patients as soon as we possibly can. Although it will take time to rebuild, we are committed to our patients in East Tennessee and will not let this attack remove the essential health services, which they depend on, ”Coffield said.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the attack was about more than the building itself.
“It needs to be made clear that these hateful actions go far beyond property damage – they harm the patients who rely on secure Planned Parenthood healthcare centers, staff and providers to receive reliable, essential healthcare,” she said.