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Provo Tabernacle fire investigation may start Tuesday

By KSL.com | Posted - Dec. 20, 2010 at 6:20 p.m.



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PROVO -- Fire investigators don't expect to have a cause on the Provo Tabernacle fire for several days, or possibly even weeks. That's because it will probably be a few days until they can safely go inside. Investigators must wait until the building is more stabilized.

Monday at the Tabernacle, a contractor hired by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began removing fall hazards from the top exterior of the building.

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Investigators could be sifting through the ashen remains of the Provo Tabernacle for the cause of last week's fire as early as Tuesday morning.

A construction crew hired by the LDS Church spent Monday tearing down some remnants and removing debris from the fire-ravaged building to make it safer for investigators to search the rubble. Demolition included the remainder of the gabled end of the roof on the west side.

Investigators spent the day studying old construction and remodeling plans for the more than 100-year-old tabernacle. They're familiarizing themselves with the layout so they have an idea of where to start once they get inside, said Provo Deputy Fire Chief Gary Jolley.

"What they're trying to do is develop a game plan," he said.

Fire Marshal Lynn Schofield also interviewed performers who were rehearsing the night before the blaze broke out to better understand the conditions inside the tabernacle and how things were set up, he said.

"We have a couple hundred performers, cast members and crew members that we've got to talk to and we're working on that today as well as other people that might have knowledge of the building and the systems being used that day," Schofield said.

"It's been real helpful talking to those people," Jolley said.

Flames tore through the iconic building last Friday morning, gutting the interior. Debris piled 9 feet high covers the floor. The outside brick walls remain standing.

The site has been secured with a fence and is being guarded around the clock to ensure nothing inside is disturbed and to prevent anyone from trying to salvage anything from the building.

While many people are wondering if the Tabernacle will be rebuilt, the LDS Church has said it is too early to discuss what the future of the Tabernacle may be.

Officials have said once investigators get inside it could be days if not weeks before the cause is determined.

"This is going to be a long process because it's a large building," Jolley said.

In addition to the loss of the building, hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal property belonging to composer Lex de Azevedo and his Millennium Choral Society were destroyed in the fire.

Sunday night a benefit concert was held to raise money to cover those losses.

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Story compiled with contributions from Dennis Romboy and Sam Penrod.

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