Tabernacle fire investigation delayed

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PROVO -- The on-site investigation into the cause of the fire that gutted the Provo Tabernacle likely won't begin until next week.

Provo Fire Chief Blair Camp said winter storms have slowed down stabilization work that needs to be completed before investigators can begin sifting through rubble inside the tabernacle.

Contractors hired by the LDS Church to stabilize the structure are concerned about two areas in particular that are considered unsafe -- the gable on the west end of the building and an alcove area in the center of the building's south side.

"Once these (areas) are stabilized, our investigators will be able to go in and look at specific areas of interest where we believe the fire may have started," Camp said, though he declined to specify those locations.

Camp said investigators have been working 10- to 12-hour days on determining the cause of the fire -- gathering photos and video evidence, interviewing witnesses and looking at building plans and blueprints.

"All those kinds of things are being done behind the scenes ... in preparation for going inside," he said.

Camp said stabilization work likely will continue through Thursday. Crews are expected to take time off for Christmas and resume work Monday.

"We anticipate that by Monday the stabilization of the building will be completed and we will have investigators digging in the building," he said.

Crews will use heavy equipment to clear the interior of the building, though all rubble will remain on site throughout the investigation, Camp said.

A timeline for how long it will take investigators to sort through the remains won't be known until crews get inside Monday, he said.

In the meantime, the fire chief is asking people to stay away from the construction site.

Camp told reporters that some of the best information they have came from video and still pictures that amateurs took on scene as the tabernacle was burning.

KSL asked the chief about rumors of an electrical alarm that went off the night of the fire and information from the choir members rehearsing that night who talked about an odd smell. He said he has heard that information as well and both are part of the investigation.

Camp said several people have asked if they could have a souvenir from historic building. A determination about what will happen to the building -- including the rubble -- will be determined by the property owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when all investigations are complete, he said.


Compiled with contributions from Jared Page and Carole Mikita

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