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Large fire guts Cottonwood Heights church

(Unified Fire Authority)



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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Crews are trying to determine what caused a fire that caused significant damage to a church early Sunday morning.

Unified Fire Authority responded to a report of a fire at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouse located at 3625 E. Dover Hill Drive at 2:45 a.m. Unified Fire spokesman Keith Garner said the report came from a neighbor whose home was adjacent to the church building.

"(They) woke up to the smell of smoke. They thought they could see some flames, so they called 911," Garner said.

By the time crews arrived six minutes later, they saw flames going through the roof of the church and there was "quite a bit of smoke" coming from the building, Garner said. It took crews more than 30 minutes to fight the fire until it was out.

"Once they went in, they had quite a bit of fire throughout the foyer and the chapel area and then even some extension to the gymnasium area," he added.

Conner Dearden lives by the church. He sent KSL video of the flames that engulfed a portion of the building.

"Right as we turned on the road, we saw the whole street was just smoke," he said, describing the scene.

Murray Fire Department crews assisted in stopping the fire.

No injuries were reported. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation. Fire investigators remained on scene later Sunday morning trying to determine the cause of the fire.

“Our Church buildings are places of worship and community gathering where all are welcome," said church spokeswoman Irene Caso, in a statement. "We are saddened by the damage that has occurred at this location. At this point, authorities have just begun their initial investigation, and it may be some time before we can provide additional details on the cause or future plans for this site."

Garner said the building had an alarm system, but it didn't notify authorities for an unknown reason. Investigators were also sorting through the damage for a cost estimate.

"There's a good chance it'll be a complete loss where the roof was breached," he said.

The news was difficult for those who attend the church at that location. Dan Steele, another nearby resident, said he was getting ready for Sunday services when he learned about the fire. He was devastated by the news. It's a place with many memories for him.

"My parents helped build this church," he said. "I've served an LDS mission. This is where I gave my mission farewell and homecoming talk. This is where we grew up. This has been home for 40 years for me."

Contributing: Dan Bammes, KSL Newsradio; Sean Moody, KSL TV

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