UPDATED: New LDS stake center near St. George Temple gutted by fire

ST. GEORGE — A nearly-completed chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located just east of the St. George LDS Temple was destroyed by a fire early Saturday.

A nearly-completed chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located just east of the St. George LDS Temple was destroyed by a fire early Saturday. The cause of the fire is currently unknown, according to firefighters, St. George, Utah, Jan. 26, 2019 | Photo By Mori Kessler, St. George News

The new chapel, which was being built to replace an aging building that was torn down last year, was to serve as the stake center, or primary chapel, of the LDS church’s St. George East Stake.

While a fire was reported over 911 around 1:15 a.m. Saturday, St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said security cameras on the temple grounds across the street picked up signs of the fire possibly burning for an hour before that.

When the firefighters arrived in the area of 300 East and 400 South where the church is located, they found signs of a fire coming from the attic in the southeastern corner of the building.

Fire crews were sent into the building and there were only signs of light smoke and no flames at first, but then the roof and ceiling started to cave in due to the attic fire. The firefighters were pulled out of the building and they began to mount a defensive attack on the fire from the outside, Stoker said.

As the fire progressed, it ran from the eastern end of the building to the western end where the chapel’s steeple was located. Along the path of the fire loud pops and crashes were heard as the roof collapsed bit by bit.

As the hours wore on, the fire engulfed the building and the steeple began to lean backward until it eventually gave way and fell into the burning structure.

Aiding the St. George Fire Department were the Washington City and Santa Clara-Ivins fire departments. The Hurricane Valley Fire District also responded to a call for aid by moving firetrucks and crews into parts of Washington City and eastern St. George, so they could provide cover for those areas while the other fire departments fought the blaze at the stake center.

After hours of dealing with the fire, it began to die down some by 4 a.m. However, small sections of the church remained aflame and were continuously blasted with water by the fire crews that surrounded the building.

A nearly-completed chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located just east of the St. George LDS Temple was destroyed by a fire early Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019 | Photo By Mori Kessler, St. George News

As of 6 a.m. when Stoker spoke with St. George News, he anticipated fire crews would continue to fight the remnants of the fire for much of the day. By that time, while part of the church was still burning, the overall building had been gutted by the flames.

The building is considered a total loss, Stoker said.

The cause of the fire is unknown and is under investigation.

Read more: Church fire in downtown St. George being treated as a criminal investigation

Members of the presidency of the St. George East Stake were at the scene and loaded updates and photos of the fire to social media.

“We were deeply saddened to have received a call at 2:30 am informing us that our new St. George East Stake Center was on fire,” one of the posts stated. “The building that we were so anticipating moving into over the next few months is gone. Those that were up watching it burn were stunned and in complete shock. Our faith is only strengthened as we work through this bump in the road.”

Smoke from the fire may hang around the downtown St. George area as the building smolders for several hours. Stoker recommended that individuals with respiratory issues and live near the area stay inside.

Stoker told St. George News that there didn’t appear to be any signs of forced entry into the church, and they are reviewing the security footage from the nearby temple.

Update 1:30 p.m. The story now includes video footage of the fire.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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17 Comments

  • Comment January 26, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    i wasn’t even aware they were building a new steak center

  • HarleyGuy January 26, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    “While a fire was reported over 911 around 1:15 a.m. Saturday, St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said security cameras on the temple grounds across the street picked up signs of the fire possibly burning for an hour before that.”

    So were the fire alarms and smoke detectors not operational yet? You’d think in a building that close to completion they would be.

    • Comment January 26, 2019 at 1:18 pm

      it’s a shame. and i’d really be curious of the cause. it doesn’t sound like arson.

      • Comment January 26, 2019 at 5:32 pm

        scratch that. i guess it was arson after all

    • Jason January 28, 2019 at 7:53 pm

      That’s correct. They were not operational yet

  • redrock4 January 26, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    As of noon today it looks pretty good. The back side is a little rough but the front is almost as good as new. Still lots of smoke but the structure is fine.

    • iceplant January 26, 2019 at 5:03 pm

      No, it is not. What’s left of that building will be torn down and rebuilt.
      Do you not understand what “total loss” means? It was gutted. And that means destroyed.
      It is also now a crime scene. Stop treating this like it’s no big deal. This is unacceptable.

      • redrock4 January 26, 2019 at 6:01 pm

        We’ll let the professionals work on the case. Hopefully it’s not a crime. But the building looks much better than I thought it would from the news article. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it. There was a lot of traffic there earlier.

        • iceplant January 27, 2019 at 9:32 am

          Yes, I have seen it. When a building is declared a total loss that means nothing can be salvaged. Fire damage and water damage alone will ensure what’s left of this building will be torn down prior to rebuilding. Unless the foundation is damaged, it will most likely be the only part that won’t be rebuilt.

          • redrock4 January 27, 2019 at 3:22 pm

            I think we’re looking at a couple of weeks to rebuild – not more than a month. A lot of the building supplies are wet but salvageable. It’s surprisingly intact.

          • tazzman January 27, 2019 at 4:08 pm

            redrock4,
            Well they have to clear out all of the rubble first and start over. It’s like when a car is totaled. It’s done in its entirety. It’s not like they can just throw up a few new walls. The entire interior is either fire or smoke damaged. The building is a goner.

          • Comment January 27, 2019 at 5:01 pm

            Yes, the outer shell of the building with the masonry is relatively intact. Still, so much of the structure is destroyed its to the point where it might be more cost effective to just tear what’s left down and start from scratch. It’s possible they could go in and gut the damaged structure and try to build off what remains, but they are building from plans, and to deviate from plans adds a whole bunch more cost. It would be interesting to see if they try and salvage any of the structure, but I doubt they will.

      • redrock4 January 27, 2019 at 4:51 pm

        Just as buildings have a footprint, they have what is called a “whiteprint”. The Whiteprint is the lasting image long after the building is gone. Despite the obvious damage to the footprint, there is still an intact Whiteprint. This will speed up reconstruction by several months.

        • Comment January 27, 2019 at 5:08 pm

          I’m not sure if these are concrete slabs in these LDS buildings. But if it is its unlikely the slab was too damaged. Yes, that would speed up the rebuild. But they’ve still got to demolish and haul away the rubble. So it may still take as long as if they were starting from scratch.

  • tcrider January 26, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    from what I can see, the foundation looks like its salvageable.

  • Paul N Laurie January 27, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    If this is arson, this hate mongering has to stop. Years ago a black man in LA got caught up in a riot and he made a profound remark when he said; “Can’t we all just get along?” Instead of destroying lives and property, can’t we just go our individual merry way and believe and live the way we want and not worry about what others believe and how they want to conduct their lives? This is an attack not only on the Church, it is an attack on freedom of religion. It’s akin to the burning of Churches in the South years ago. I hope the perpetrators are caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Society has gone too far off track. If you want to hate Mormon’s or Catholics or Protestants, that’s fine but keep it yourself and go on with your life however you want. When acts like this take place, the loser are most apt to be the perps. If they get caught, their lives are ruined forever. It’s simply not worth it to take things this far.

    • Comment January 27, 2019 at 5:04 pm

      Well, no one knows the motive of the perpetrator(s). All you can do at this point is speculate.

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