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Fire Destroys Part of Kearns LDS Church

Fire Destroys Part of Kearns LDS Church

Posted - Aug. 2, 2003 at 9:01 p.m.



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Sandra Yi reporting Flames engulf part of an L-D-S church in Kearns overnight. Investigators say it may have been arson.

Investigators say someone may have broken in to the clerk's office and started the fire early this morning.

Now members are left to rebuild.

The church was remodeled only a couple of years ago. As one woman said, they have to start all over again.

Steve Lockwood: "JUST A MESS, A HUGE MESS."

For members - the fire damage in this L-D-S church is hard to swallow.

Steve Lockwood: "OH, A LITTLE DEVASTATED."

Most of the west wing including the foyer, clerk's office and a classroom was destroyed. And the areas not burned have smoke damage. Investigators estimate the loss at half a million dollars and growing.

Rae Kinzer/Church Member: "I DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS THAT BAD. THAT'S DISGUSTING. THAT'S REALLY SCARY. I'M JUST GLAD NO ONE WAS IN THERE. THEY MIGHT HAVE BEEN KILLED."

The fire started after 5 this morning.

The sound of fire engines awoke Veronica Simmons who thought a neighbor's home may have caught on fire. She was shocked to see her church in flames.

Simmons shot home video of the fire from her back patio.

Veronica Simmons: "THOSE ARE IMPRESSIVE, IMPRESSIVE FLAMES. IT WAS AMAZING."

Veronica Simmons/Church Member: "YOU COULD SEE THE FIRE GUY. IT'S LIKE, THE FLAMES ARE LITERALLY ON HIS FACE AND HE STAYS HIS GROUND AND HE WOULDN'T MOVE AND HE WAS JUST STEADY AND HE WOULD TAKE A 2 SECOND BREAK AND TAKE SOME AIR AND GO BACK INTO IT."

This morning - members gathered to see the aftermath.

It was too much for Simmons.

Veronica Simmons/Church Member: "I WENT THROUGH THE OUTSIDE BUT IT JUST MADE CRY SO I JUST STOOD THERE FOR A LITTLE WHILE, STARED AT IT."

She says what makes the loss more painful is - the fire may have been intentionally set. Investigators say the cause is suspicious.

Capt. Jay Ziolkowski, Salt Lake County Fire Dept.: "LACK OF BURN PATTERNS ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE BUILDING, WE BELIEVE SOMETHING MAY HAVE HAPPENED ON THE INSIDE."

Meanwhile... church members have plans to rebuild.

Even after tragedy - their spirit remains strong.

Veronica Simmons: "WE'RE NOT GOING TO STOP GOING TO CHURCH JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE SET IT ON FIRE. WE'RE GOING TO KEEP GOING. THAT WON'T STOP US."

Ward members say they have no idea who would want to do this to their church. One woman said the church sidewalk was vandalized recently but they haven't seen any other suspicious activity here.

As for services tomorrow... they will be held at a church on 51 hundred south and 56 hundred west at one o'clock.

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