Friday, December 17, 2010

Videos Of The Provo LDS Tabernacle Fire; Historic Building Feared Completely Lost

Update March 31st 2011: Provo Fire Department releases official report on the Provo Tabernacle fire, attributes it to human error. Updated post HERE.

Update December 18th: Provo Foundation launching fundraising effort to get Provo Tabernacle rebuilt; details HERE.

Early on the morning of December 17th, 2010, the historic LDS Tabernacle in Provo, Utah caught fire and was seriously damaged; many believe it will eventually have to be razed. Story summarized from accounts on KSL Channel 5, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Provo Daily Herald. KSTU Channel 13 news video embedded below:


KSL Channel 5 news video below (the concert discussed in the story was held in Alpine):

Video Courtesy of

While arson is not suspected, the fire may prove to be human-caused. Late on December 16th, BYU crews were filming a Christmas concert taking place within the building. One witness later recounted that she smelled something like a "hot glue gun", but attributed it to the effect of the TV crews, lights, and other audiovisual equipment brought in. So no red flags were tripped.

Then at 2:43 A.M. on December 17th, a security guard first noticed and reported the fire, which appeared to originate on the second floor. Firefighters immediately responded; ultimately, 25 firefighters, three ladder trucks and half-a-dozen fire engines were involved. Crews considered an offensive approach but when they tried to enter the building they determined it wasn't safe. They have been fighting it defensively from the outside ever since. Approximately 6 A.M., the roof began to collapse. By 7:45 A.M., cracks reportedly were appearing in the exterior walls of the first story of the two-story building. A column of heavy smoke continued to billow from the center of the building three hours later. I wouldn't be surprised if the fire was ultimately determined to have been caused by overloading the electrical outlets, considering all the audiovisual equipment that was brought in by the film crew.

At present, virtually all that remains is an empty exterior shell. It may not be rebuilt; LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter issued this statement: "The fire at the Provo Tabernacle is tragic. The building not only serves our members and the community, but is a reminder of the pioneering spirit that built Utah. The damage appears severe and until we make a structural assessment we won't know whether this historic treasure will be able to be saved." The structure is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Construction of the tabernacle, with its unique octagonal towers at each of the four corners, began in 1883 and was completed in 1898 at the cost of $100,000. Tabernacles also differ in style and purpose from the church’s temples, which are primarily reserved for sacred ordinances such as weddings and baptisms for the dead. Tabernacles are usually dedicated to meetings combining several congregations.

Many local people are understandably shook up. One person said, "Everyone in Provo has significant memories of concerts, plays, church meetings. It's an extremely vital part of my community. It's really a fabric of the community.". Another person noted, "I almost want to cry. So many memories in there and not a bad one. I really hope it was an accident." But two amateur videos filmed by local people best captured the reaction:

First video:

Second video:

Reaction from other Mormons is also posted on the following unofficial LDS blogs:

-- By Common Consent
-- Wheat & Tares
-- Juvenile Instructor
-- Keepapitchinin
-- Non-Mormon reaction posted on ClobberBlog.

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