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Arson suspected in Mormon meetinghouse fire in Santaquin

Police believe someone ignited trash in building

Published: Thursday, Dec. 15 2011 8:17 p.m. MST

LDS Church members in Santaquin work to clear out usable items Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 from their church after an overnight fire that authorities have listed as arson.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SANTAQUIN — Police and fire crews are investigating an arson-caused fire that heavily damaged an LDS Church stake house.

"It's definitely an arson," said Santaquin police detective Stan Eggan.

The fire, near 200 East and 100 South, was reported about 4:30 a.m. Eggan called the damage to the meetinghouse "extensive."

He said the fire damaged the south wing of the church, where there were several classrooms, the Relief Society room and the bishop's office.

As of Thursday afternoon, Eggan said there was no evidence to suggest the fire was the result of a hate crime. The church had not received any recent threats. Detectives believe it was likely a vandalism that got out of hand and turned into an arson.

The fire was believed to have started when someone ignited trash inside the building, Eggan said. The person who set the fire was believed to have entered the church through an open window.

The stake center was built in the 1940s and was one of the oldest churches in Santaquin, Eggan said. Part of the building was recently renovated.

There was no word on possible suspects.

Several residents said there was a dinner and fundraiser auction scheduled at the church Thursday night for a member who is being treated for cancer. Those items were reportedly destroyed in the fire.

Additional details will be posted as they become available.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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