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Tabernacle fire final report likely in 2-3 weeks

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  • Tabernacle fire final report likely in 2-3 weeks

    Tabernacle fire final report likely in 2-3 weeks
    Construction workers use a crane to deposit debris taken from inside the Provo Tabernacle on the north lawn Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 in Provo. The Provo City Fire Department hopes to finish their investigation of the tabernacle fire in the next two to three weeks. ANDREW VAN WAGENEN/Daily Herald .
    PROVO -- More than two months have passed since Provo's iconic tabernacle was burned to a cinder, and now the end is finally in sight for authorities investigating the cause of the blaze.

    Chief Lynn Schofield of the Provo fire department said investigators will likely have a final report on the fire that destroyed the building within two to three weeks. The report should provide information about the cause and chronology of the blaze.

    "It's a very large, very complex incident," Schofield said, "and consequently it will be a fairly complex report."

    Schofield said that the interviewing stage of the investigation is nearly complete. Authorities talked to scores of people who had any sort of connection to the building or the fire as they attempted to pinpoint exactly when and how it began. Those interviewed included facilities personnel, performers who had been in the building the night before the fire, video production crew members and others. Schofield did not reveal exactly what he had discovered from these interviews and the larger investigation, but said he did know where the fire began.

    "We do know that it started in the attic," Schofield said.

    Fire department work at the tabernacle also has largely finished, Schofield said, and passers by will notice that scaffolding has recently been erected on all sides of the building. The scaffolding was put in place by independent contractors hired by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- which owns the building -- and is designed to stabilize the remains of the structure. Custody of the site was transferred from the fire department to the LDS Church in late January. The church also is paying for 24-hour security on the site.

    Schofield said that crews also have stopped moving debris onto the building's north lawn. He said that roughly 90 tons of material had been pulled out of the building so far, all of which was meticulously cataloged and organized according to where it was found.

    Now that fire crews have completed their work on the building, Schofield said that contractors representing insurance agents and other interested parties are being given a chance to assess the damage. He added that he did not have any information about future plans for the tabernacle, and said decisions about rebuilding or demolishing will be made by the LDS Church.

    "I think they're keeping their options open," he said.

    Schofield said the investigation into the blaze had been among the biggest he had ever seen, including many of the fatal fires that he has investigated over the years. He said that the depth of the investigation was prompted in part by the size of the building and its prominence in the community.

    "It's such a community landmark," Schofield said. "It tied the community together."
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