Eastminster Presbyterian Destroyed By Fire

Posted at 4:41 PM, Dec 11, 2016

Eastminster Presbyterian Church, a bilingual church in East Nashville, was destroyed by a fire after crews were forced to let the devastating fire burn itself out.

More than 12 hours after the initial call, firefighters were still on the scene working to extinguish the blaze after it reignited. 

Officials with the Nashville Fire Department said the blaze got to the point that they had no choice but to let it burn out. 

Crews spent several hours dousing the roof with water from two ladder trucks, hoping to keep the flames from spreading to nearby structures.

When the sun came up Monday morning, daylight showed the true extent of the damage for the first time. The roof was gone, windows were broken out, and the interior had been gutted.

Most of what remained of the structure was just the shell of the brick walls.

The first fire call came in around 4 p.m. Sunday. Firefighters responded to the church at 3930 Gallatin Road, near Sunnymeade Drive, and found a fire in the basement.

There was smoke damage, but crews believed the fire had been extinguished. 

The second call came in around 9 p.m. When firefighters got to the scene, the fire was much worse. Officials said heavy wind was fanning the flames, which spread quickly, eventually consuming the entire structure.

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s heart wrenching to see a church in flames that’s been here for so long and helped so many people," Crystal Griffin, who lives near the church, said. 

Eastminster Presbyterian Church pastor, Gilbert Varela, said the fire was especially devastating because he thought the fire was extinguished the first time around. 

“We lost our whole building and our sanctuaries. It’s extremely sad, probably one of the saddest nights of my life to see the church, the place where we worship, completely gone," Varela said. 

It's unclear if anything can be salvaged from inside the building. Bibles and other items were either destroyed in the fire, or destroyed by the water used to fight the fire. 

Fire investigators were expected to go inside and assess the cause of the fire after it’s determined that it’s safe to do so, but as of Monday evening, the cause of the fire was still undetermined. 

The congregation that worshiped at the church has planned to relocate to another church for the time being while they assess their future plans. 

If you'd like to reach out to the church to offer prayers or financial assistance, you can email pastor Varela at