Arson has been blamed for a fire that damaged an LDS meetinghouse early Wednesday, a St. George police detective says.

Detective Matt Jacobson said someone broke a window in the rear of the church used by the St. George 15th, 18th and 24th wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ransacked the ward clerks' offices and set a blaze in one of the offices."It looked pretty bad in there," Jacobson said. "There was extensive damage to the offices and halls, but the chapel and gym area suffered only minor damage."

St. George Fire Marshal Wayne Houston said the blaze was discovered at 4:40 a.m. Wednesday by Officer Marlan Stratton, who was patrolling the area.

Jacobson said that while police and fire officials are following leads, they have no suspect in the case and no estimate of damage.

"I wanted to cry when I saw the damage," said 18th Ward Bishop Ed Rogers. "The telephones, typewriter and countertops are all melted," he said.

President H. Bruce Stucki of the St. George West Stake said the building is less than a year old. "We dedicated that building in August 1987," he said. "It's most unfortunate that this happened."

Church members in the 18th and 24th wards will temporarily meet in the Green Valley Stake Center on a two-hour block schedule instead of the traditional three-hour block. The 15th Ward will meet at the Red Hills chapel, 500 N. Fourth West, on the same two-hour block.

Stucki said it will be weeks or even months before the building is usable again. In the interim, the building is under a 24-hour guard to prevent looting or attempts to destroy evidence.