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A fire that destroyed a Planned Parenthood building was intentionally set

Investigators and officials have ruled that the New Year's Eve fire at a Knoxville Planned Parenthood building was intentional.
Knoxville Fire Department
Investigators and officials have ruled that the New Year's Eve fire at a Knoxville Planned Parenthood building was intentional.

The New Year's Eve fire that destroyed a Knoxville, Tenn., Planned Parenthood building was intentionally set, investigators and officials have ruled.

The fire was ruled an arson on Thursday after officials from the Knoxville Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigated the scene. Officials say they don't know who set the fire.

On Dec. 31, the Knox County Emergency Communications Center received a call at 6:39 a.m. about a building on fire. When crews arrived, they found a single-story commercial building with a fire that reached through the roof.

The fire, which was quickly put out, caused a "total loss" of the building, the fire department said. There were no injuries.

"This is an appalling and heartbreaking act of violence towards Planned Parenthood, our patients, and our community," Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee & North Mississippi, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have mourned at this health center."

This was the second attack in the past year at the Knoxville location. On Jan. 22, 2021 — the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade -- an unidentified gunman shot through the doors of the building.

The building was undergoing a $2.2 million renovation and expansion when the fire took place.

"It must be made clear that these hateful acts go much further than property damage — they harm the patients who depend on safe Planned Parenthood health centers, staff, and providers to receive trusted, essential health care services," Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

The Knoxville Fire Department is asking the community to share information related to the fire through the number 1-800-762-3017 or email KFDArson@knoxvilletn.gov. It's offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to prosecution.

Tien Le is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tien Le