ST. GEORGE — Just over four months ago the nearly-completed St. George East Stake Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was decimated by a fire that left the building a torched, smoldering husk.
An iconic image of the aftermath of the fire was the sight of the steeple that had collapsed into the church and was visible from the street through a gap in the wall and brickwork left by the fire. Much of the roof across the entire structure had also collapsed.
As of Thursday morning, a new steeple sits atop the swiftly rebuilt stake center located across the street from the St. George Temple at in the area of 300 East and 400 South.
A small crowd gathered to watch a crane hoist the steeple heavenward and move it into position just feet over the rooftop where construction workers helped guide it into place.
“It’s good to see it back up and the company that’s doing it is doing (it) in record time,” said Art Troyer, president of the LDS East Stake. He was among the group of around 20 people who watched as the steeple was guided into place and finally set on its new and permanent home.
“We’re glad to have it up there,” Troyer said.
In the LDS church, a stake center serves as the central chapel of a stake – which is a geographical unit within the church that encompasses a number of local LDS congregations call wards. The nearly-completed stake center was being built to replace an aging building that was torn down last year.
During the stake center’s construction, wards that would have met at the East Stake Center held services at other LDS chapels within the stake.
The fire that destroyed the original stake center occurred in the early hours of Jan. 26. Due to what fire officials later called a “perfect storm” of vulnerability, fire consumed the entire building in a matter of hours. The building was declared a total loss.
The fire has been declared suspicious by authorities who have stopped short of calling the incident an arson. Local, state and federal police agencies have been investigating the fire. Investigators also began to look at a possible connection to a fire at the Episcopal church in St. George that occurred Jan. 5.
The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives has also offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to possible suspects.
Beyond a potential connection between the East Stake Center and Episcopal church fires being investigated, no additional updates to the fire investigation have been released to the public or media since Feb. 8.
In the wake of the East Stake Center fire, church officials said it may take up to two years to rebuild. The East Stake Center itself was nearing completion with its steeple having been set in place just a short while before the fire occurred.
“Significant effort has gone into the post fire clean-up and rebuild,” the LDS East Stake presidency stated in a Facebook post Wednesday. “We are grateful for the faith, patience, love and support by all Stake members as well as all those who have expressed concerns to us worldwide.”
The LDS church would not comment on the cost of building the stake center when contacted by St. George News.
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