Small fire in Whitfield County church prompts arson investigation


The remains of what appeared to be a "Molotov cocktail-type device" were found on the scene of a small fire in a Whitfield County church, prompting an arson investigation, according to the Georgia State Fire Marshal's Office.

Damage to Cove Baptist Fellowship Church, a few miles south of Dalton, Georgia, was not extensive because the Whitfield County Fire Department responded fairly quickly Wednesday night, the fire marshal office's chief investigator, Tony Pritchett, said by phone Thursday.

The Molotov cocktail-like device may have been thrown through a church window, he said, adding that an investigation is ongoing and he was not in a position to announce any suspects.

Molotov cocktails are homemade incendiary devices -- typically a glass bottle with a flammable substance inside and a cloth fuse.

A 911 call reporting the fire came at 9:18 p.m. Wednesday, a staffer at Whitfield County's emergency dispatch center told the Chattanooga Times Free Press by phone Thursday.

The county Fire Department called Georgia's State Fire Marshal's Office later that night to ask that it investigate, Prichett said.

While Molotov cocktails are a common way to start fires, Pritchett said his office has not recently observed any pattern in Georgia of arsonists targeting churches.

The state fire marshal's office is collecting evidence to be processed in its laboratory and has multiple investigators dedicated to the case, Pritchett said.

"This is one of our top priorities right now," he said.

Contact Andrew Schwartz at or 423-757-6431.