Members get busy after blaze in building
By Linda Thomson
Deseret Morning News
Fire officials are still investigating what they consider an arson fire at a Kearns LDS ward house early Saturday, but ward members are looking forward to restoring the building and are busy notifying others about their new, temporary meeting places.
Crews work to put out a fire in an LDS meetinghouse in Kearns early Saturday.
Kira Horvath, Deseret Morning News
The Salt Lake County Fire Department was called at 5:15 a.m. Saturday to the blaze at 5133 S. Heath Ave. Fire crews from West Valley City and West Jordan helped county firefighters battle the two-alarm fire, which was under control in about an hour and 15 minutes, according to Salt Lake County Fire Capt. Jay Ziolkowski.
"Right now, the fire investigators believe it was arson. It appears to have started on the inside," Ziolkowski said Saturday. "There is still an ongoing investigation."
Damage is estimated at $500,000, with about $400,000 worth of destruction to the building and $100,000 in lost building contents, but that amount could increase, Ziolkowski said.
No one was hurt.
The fire appeared to have started in a clerk's office on southwest corner of the building, and that room "flashed over," meaning it became very hot and the fire spread to the attic, which helped it move quickly, Ziolkowski said.
However, the fire station is just down the street, so firefighters were on the scene quickly and were able to stem the blaze fairly fast.
The building is used by the Kearns Western Hills 1st Ward as well as largely Spanish-speaking Western Hills 8th Ward.
Within minutes, ward members were pouring out of their homes and cars, offering to help, according to Steve Lockwood, the LDS bishop for the Western Hills 1st Ward.
"Half my ward was out at 5:30 this morning wanting to know how they can help," Bishop Lockwood said Saturday. "We had people pull over on the street, asking how they can help, and people volunteering to clean up."
By Saturday afternoon, church members including young people, had put in several volunteer hours notifying others either by phone or going door-to-door about the new meeting places that will house the two wards until repairs are completed.
Bishop Lockwood said his ward has 577 members, and the other ward, headed by Bishop Elvis Valenzuela, has around 700. "We're probably looking at 1,100 to 1,200 people that were affected by this," Bishop Lockwood said.
"People going by who haven't been going to church in years were crying. It's affected a lot of people. But we can't even begin to compare ourselves to those who are living in Samoa who lost their temple," Lockwood said, referring to the blaze that destroyed the Apia Samoa temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on July 9.
The two wards will meet at either the Kearns Western Hills Stake Center at 5380 W. 5400 South or at the Kearns 5th ward house at 5107 S. 5600 West.
Today's meeting will be a long sacrament meeting with the usual sacrament activities as well as "some counseling and consoling," Bishop Lockwood said.
But he predicted that one week from today, everything will be moving along as it has before.
"It's not just us," Bishop Lockwood said. "That's just something about the church ó everyone's known for helping."
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