On The Job: Utah

On Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, a two-alarm fire destroyed the Provo Latter-Day Saints Tabernacle, considered a “historic treasure,” in Provo, UT. Investigators determined the fire was unintentional and likely was caused by a heat source placed too close to...


On Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, a two-alarm fire destroyed the Provo Latter-Day Saints Tabernacle, considered a “historic treasure,” in Provo, UT. Investigators determined the fire was unintentional and likely was caused by a heat source placed too close to combustible materials. The loss was...


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Fire Marshal Lynn Schofield contacted the Utah State Fire Marshal’s Office for assistance in determining the origin, cause and circumstances of the fire. A task force met at Provo Fire Station 21 on Dec. 18 to be briefed, then visited the site, photographed the scene and interviewed the security guard who discovered the fire and the owners of Trax. The guard described finding the fire on the stage and seeing a hole in the ceiling. The task force continued to interview people with knowledge of the building, production crew members, cast members, maintenance workers and electricians while the south and west sides of the building were stabilized.

On Jan. 3, 2011, the task force entered the structure to gather evidence. Investigators were particularly interested in the two circuits that made up dimmable incandescent light circuits. Investigators systematically excavated the west side of the building, work that took about four weeks. To minimize spoliation concerns, an identical footprint of the Tabernacle was established in the park. Items removed from the structure were logged, photographed and marked before being placed in the grid. Items of interest, including light receptacles, wiring and light fixtures, were secured in containers. Investigators identified pieces of the triangular truss from the attic space, chain crawlers and assorted pieces of the square lighting truss and lights. Investigators recovered several reflective bells from dimmable incandescent lights and a polished reflective bell identified by the building maintenance group as one of the fixtures set aside to suspend the lighting truss. This piece was significant because the bell had thermal damage, including melted metal and icicle formations on the interior of the bell, created when the bell was in an upright or nearly upright position.

Investigators determined the fire originated in the attic around the dimmable incandescent light fixtures. The point of origin probably was a center wooden speaker enclosure. The cause of the fire was unintentional. The most probable proximate cause was a heat source, an energized 300-watt lamp, placed too close to combustible materials, specifically the wooden speaker enclosure.