NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is investigating an overnight fire at a Germantown church after a fiery object was thrown through a window.
The incident happened Tuesday at The Axis Church, located on Second Avenue. The Nashville Fire Department confirmed that crews responded to the church shortly before 2 a.m. and extinguished the blaze.
NFD officials said they notified the ATF, which is protocol for investigating a church fire.
The church’s pastor shared video from inside the church, which shows a fiery object being lobbed through a window.
Pastor Jeremy Rose believes the thrown object was a Molotov cocktail.
ATF officials first said it was unclear if the object was a Molotov cocktail. Because that's a federal charge, they had to rule everything else out first.
“We have to rule out any other issues that could have been a cause of the fire. ATF -- as part of our priorities always -- respond to all church fires as part of our process,” the agency said in part Tuesday.
However, on Wednesday, the item had been identified as a Molotov cocktail. The object caused a small fire that spread to some rugs and equipment in the hallway before firefighters were able to put it out.
Nashville Fire investigators, the ATF and Metro police are working together to investigate the fire. A suspect description has not yet been released, but anyone with information that may lead to the arsonist's identification is asked to call the Tennessee Arson Hotline at 1-800-762-3017.
In the meantime, the pastor wants whoever is responsible to know the church wants to help them.
"This sort of thing serves me as a reminder for the mission of our church, of like why we're here to begin with," said Pastor Jeremy Rose. "If this kind of stuff never happened it would be heaven on earth and we're not there yet and therefore the mission of the church has to be about it's community and showing people a better way."
The United States Bomb Data Center collects and analyzes information on house of worship incidents in the country involving arson or explosives.
Last year, 247 fire-related incidents were reported, 107 of which were considered "incendiary" (arson), 35 as accidental and eight as natural.