Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fire in historic Provo, Utah Tabernacle Leaves City’s Cultural Heart Broken

Sometime in the wee small hours of Friday, December 17, 2010, a fire broke out, apparently on the second floor, of the historic Provo Tabernacle in Utah. This building, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has been used for both community and church events.

Shortly before 2:45 am, the Provo Fire Department received word of the fire, and responded within moments, to find the second floor engulfed with fire. At first, hose crews were sent into the structure to attack the fire from the inside. However, in time, in the interests of safety, these crews were withdrawn while the suppression effort continued from the outside. At 5 am, the north part of the roof began to collapse, and take part of the north wall with it. By 6 am, virtually the entire roof had collapsed.

The big question, naturally, is whether the outer walls can be saved or not. The answer is far from certain at this time because the investigation into the cause has yet to begin. Only after that process is finished can structural engineers enter the structure to assess the condition of what is left. Preliminarily, the appearance of several visible cracks in the first floor outer walls before the fire was extinguished raises serious doubts.

One might wonder why a non-Mormon who has never even visited Provo would even care about this news event. I find I can’t explain it, however, there is something about this story that has touched me very deeply. For some reason, I feel a sense of loss, even at a distance of several hundred miles. Perhaps, in time, clarity on these issues will surface. Until then, may my compassion reach out and bring a feeling of comfort to the community of Provo.

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