Lightning strikes St. George Tabernacle, starts blaze

ST. GEORGE — The historic St. George Tabernacle caught fire Thursday morning after being struck by lightning, but firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control before it did much damage.

St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said the fire was reported at 9:15 a.m. and firefighting crews arrived on scene within a few minutes. Smoke was emanating from the roof on the south side of the building’s steeple.

Crews respond to a lightning-caused fire at the historic St. George Tabernacle Thursday morning, Sept. 14, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“We did have fire showing in the roof structure,” Stoker said, adding that the blaze had spread into parts of the attic of the 141-year-old building, located at 18 South Main Street.

Crews first battled the blaze from inside the building using portable extinguishers, followed by pressurized fire hoses, Stoker said. Later, firefighters climbed up the exterior scaffolding and removed tarps and roofing materials to access the attic and make sure hot spots were not still smoldering within the rafters.

“There were construction workers inside that witnessed the strike,” Stoker said, adding that all of them were able to safely evacuate the building. No injuries were reported.

Multiple witnesses reported seeing lightning strikes in the immediate area as a morning thunderstorm passed through town.

Witness David Maggard said he was out for his morning walk when he saw a bright flash and heard a loud sound, after which he could see white smoke coming from the tabernacle’s roof.

“Within a couple minutes, heard sirens,” Maggard said. “The fire engines got here fast.”

Crews respond to a lightning-caused fire at the historic St. George Tabernacle Thursday morning, Sept. 14, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Chief Stoker said although there is some damage to the roof and attic timbers, “structurally, the building is still sound.”

Fire officials said eight fire engine units responded to the incident, including two ladder trucks and five other engines from St. George Fire Department, plus one engine from Washington City Fire Department. Two Gold Cross Ambulances were also on scene.

The tabernacle, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dates back to the 1870s. Long used for church gatherings, worship services,concerts and community events, the building has been closed for renovation since June 2016.

In addition to fire department investigators, LDS Church officials and representatives from the construction company contracted for the renovation were also on scene assessing the damage.

Officials from the church’s public affairs department said the fire is unlikely to delay the timetable for the tabernacle’s renovation project, which is scheduled to be finished by January 2018. 

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • JOSH DALTON September 14, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    WOW…Apparently there is a GOD! GO FALCONS!

    • Real Life September 14, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Nah, Warren Jeffs is still alive.

  • comments September 14, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    meh, nickels and dimes to the LDS church. They’ve got tens of billions $$$ to throw around.

    • comments September 14, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      imagine if the fed gov’t instituted a new 10% tax, and said it’s a tithing owed to the lord got. And if you didn’t pay it you lose your drivers lic and library card, lol. And on top of that you go to hell unless its paid in full, or, not necessarily hell, but just one of the dumpier versions of heaven, like the midwest trailer park version of heaven. lol

      • AnotherReader September 15, 2017 at 12:09 pm

        @comment, sounds like the weight of that huge chip you have on your shoulder is getting you down. You might find life much more enjoyable and you’d be much less of a troll if you’d just move on. Sorry you find that weight so unbearable.

  • Kilroywashere September 14, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    What are the odds? Strange days indeed.

  • DRT September 14, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    I don’t believe I would have been a happy camper, if I’d had to climb that scaffolding in the lightening storm! Once again, hats off to our firefighters!

  • ScanMeister September 14, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    Glad everyone safe. Hats off to the Firefighters for quick action. There still was lighting in the area when they were on the metal scaffolding.

  • Caveat_Emptor September 14, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    I am not an engineer, but I would think that the scaffolding is all bolted together, and would form an excellent frame to protect the building structure. Perhaps Angel Moroni was sticking up higher…….
    If the scaffolding was not grounded before, I sure hope they took care of that today.

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