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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Springville firefighters put out a fire at historic LDS chapel Friday.

SPRINGVILLE — Police said arson was the cause of a fire that charred a historic church on Springville's Main Street late Friday night.

Around 10:40 p.m., smoke billowed from the attic of a meetinghouse at 451 S. Main owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Lt. Dave Caron, from the Springville department of public safety.

"The fire started at the stage front (in the gym area), then got into the conduit system, which gave it access to run up the wall and into the attic," Caron said Saturday.

Caron estimated that the church sustained about $200,000 worth of damage, but not all of the damage was caused by the fire. In fact, except for a broken window and a lingering smell surrounding the building, no evidence of fire could be seen from the outside.

On the inside, however, the church was severely vandalized with fire extinguishers, doors were broken and televisions were smashed.

"It really is a senseless tragedy," Caron said. " I don't think I'll ever understand why people do what they do."

Caron said whoever started the fire probably entered through a window on the second story. All of the locks on the building have already been re-keyed to give only designated church officials access to the entrances.

The Kolob 2nd and 3rd wards, which meet in the building, have been relocated for today's services. The 2nd ward will meet at 2575 Dalton Drive at 1 p.m. The 3rd ward will meet at 55 N. Main at 1 p.m.

According to Caron, it is hard to estimate how long the building will be closed while the damage is appraised.

"It's going to be awhile," Caron said. "It's ugly in there."

The building, built in 1913, was remodeled for approximately $1.5 million in 1998. After the remodeling was completed, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley visited the site to rededicate it for worship.

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The fire "is troubling," said Ryan Johnston, a local LDS Church member who is assigned to monitor church buildings in the vicinity. "It worries me to think there are these kinds of kids out there looking for this kind of destruction. I don't know why they'd target the church."

Caron said a large amount of evidence was removed from the building and has been taken to the state crime lab.

"We're following up on leads," Caron said. "Sometimes it takes awhile to solve these things, but quite often they do get solved, so I'm going to remain hopeful."


E-mail: achoate@desnews.com