COLUMBIA, Tenn. – A funeral home was destroyed by fire in Columbia on Tuesday night.
The blaze broke out at about 6:30 p.m. at the Williams Funeral Home in Maury County.
Officials said an off-duty firefighter was at the funeral home on Tuesday evening making plans for his mother's funeral when he started to smell smoke. At first, he and several others inside the building thought it was normal since there is a crematory at Williams Funeral Home, but they soon realized it was in fact a fire.
Everyone was able to escape the fire safely. All of the bodies were removed before the fire reached them.
Dozens of residents watched from the street as crews battled the flames. Among them was Angie Osmon and her 12-year-old son, one of many families with an emotional connection to the building.
They said the fire could be seen from miles away.
"We could see the black smoke, and after we got here, it just kept getting blacker and blacker. It started a little gray smoke, and then it was just billowing black smoke, so you could tell it was getting hot and the flames were just roaring," said witness Emily Kinzer.
The owners of Williams Funeral Home said they would be working closely with firefighters to try to save the decades' worth of documents kept inside the building.
Fire officials will be back at the scene Wednesday sifting through what's left of the building in search of clues to determine exactly what happened.
The fire marshal hopes to have some answers about the cause and origin later Wednesday.