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KSL tours remains of Provo Tabernacle


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PROVO -- The Provo Fire Marshall allowed reporters and photographers right up to the remains of the Provo Tabernacle Tuesday to take a tour of the damage.

They were not allowed inside the building, but could see the damage through the openings in the walls- metal piping, huge wooden beams, radiators and part of the old organ.

All that remains is a shell of the original historic building. The roof collapsed in the December 17 blaze.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation and a task force has been formed between the state of Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- which owns the building -- and the Provo City Fire Department.

"We are still in the early stages of our investigation. We got to get (inside)," said Lynn Schofield, Provo Fire Marshall. "A lot of things are are going to tie everything up are still (inside). We are getting good information from witnesses.

"It really appears the investigation is going really slowly, but the reality is we've been 10, 12, 14 hours a day interviewing people, reviewing building plans, watching video tape. Actually the investigation is progressing very nicely... we just got to get inside."

That investigation is zeroing in on three days: the day before, the day of and the day after the fire.

Crews are currently busy trying to stabilize the exterior bricks walls. They'll add steel beams to hold those walls up to make sure they don't collapse.

Firefighters say at times they were putting as many as 4,000 gallons of water per minute on the fire. That adds up to more than 1 million gallons, according to city officials.

Gary Jolley, Assistant Provo Fire Chief, says it's potentially dangerous to send investigators in. "You need to have some safety officer or some safety person to make sure they're looking for things investigators aren't looking for, to make sure that something doesn't happen to them," Jolley said.

Crews will also remove everything inside the building, piece by piece, documenting them with GPS coordinates as well as photographs, then laying them on a plastic tarp just to the north of the building- essentially trying to figure out how this fire started and help with the preservation of the building.

However, the Fire Marshall says no decision has been made yet on whether or not the building can be restored.

Scott Trotter, spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a statement, "We anticipate that it will be several weeks before we are able to determine next steps regarding the Provo Tabernacle."

Story compiled with contributions from John Daley and Marc Giauque.

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