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Mormon church will decide future of buildings in church arsons

Published: Monday, Nov. 8 2010 2:30 p.m. MST

SOUTH SALT LAKE — One week after two separate LDS church buildings suffered damages in fires police believe were started intentionally, the future of the two buildings remains undecided.

According to documents filed in 3rd District Court, Patrick Ehat, 26, spread some kind of "ignitable liquid accelerant" on the sacrament table, podium, organ and piano in the chapel of an LDS Church building at 3219 S. 300 East, in South Salt Lake, early on Oct. 30. Later that same day, a second fire was discovered at another LDS Church building, located at 2702 S. Main, after a similar liquid was used to ignite the fire on a couch inside.

The building on 300 East sustained damages "well over a million dollars," South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote said. He said it is up to the LDS Church, which owns the building, to decide what to do next.

"The question is, and it's their call to make, is do we repair or do we rebuild?" Foote said. "As a city we'll stand behind any decision they make, but we need to decide sooner than later."

He said the decision-making process is ongoing, but that the church will call in a consultant to help them review the damage and give guidance as to the best course of action. He called the fires a "sad event" that left many without a place of worship.

"It doesn't impact us as a city but it does affect us as a community because the members of these churches have to go elsewhere," Foote said. "We as a city want to put forth our best efforts so when they decide, we stand at the ready to help them in any way we can. And we would do that for anybody."

The fire department will not make any determination as to whether the building should be condemned. Their role will simply be to ensure that whatever happens, the building meets fire code.

"The building was built in the '70s," he said. "If they choose to repair they're going to have to follow today's guidelines, fire code, building code. They just have to decide what's going to be best for the structure long-term."

Foote says the damage is "substantial," especially inside the building. He attributed this to the fact that the fire was extremely hot. He said that the fire at the second building was less so, leading to damages that were primarily cosmetic, such as water and smoke damage.

"The damages are less severe, but they're still in the hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.

Both buildings have been fenced off and are only open to those who are authorized to enter.

Ehat, who is a member of the LDS faith, apparently told police he torched the buildings because he "believed the LDS Church had lied to him," charging documents state.

He is currently being held in the Salt Lake County Jail on $500,000 bail.

e-mail: emorgan@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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