Investigators work to determine cause of fire at LDS church in Swan Valley


Investigators work to determine cause of fire at LDS church in Swan Valley

SWAN VALLEY, Idaho – The Idaho state fire marshal is investigating what caused a massive fire to break out and destroy an LDS church in Swan Valley.

The fire at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel started around 2 p.m. Tuesday. Someone reported seeing smoke coming from the building.

Omni Security Systems Owner Mark Pettichord said that a lot of the damage could have been prevented had they had an active fire water sprinkler system and a monitor fire alarm system to notify the proper authority right when the fire started.

“A lot of the buildings in South East Idaho and throughout the country do not have these systems because they were not required during the time of construction. They are what we call grandfathered in,” Pettichord said.”However, the church was built in 1948 therefore it is not mandatory to enforce up to date codes and standards.”

Local residents drove by the church Wednesday to take pictures of the aftermath. Some got out of their cars to pick up pieces of brick that once lined the church’s exterior.

The fire marshal put up yellow caution tape around the building to ward off curious bystanders. The fire is still being investigated and authorities have not yet ruled out arson. The Swan Valley Fire Department will be securing the area for 24 hours.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Ivan Hibbert said he could not comment too much because it is a continuing investigation. However, he said that the church has its own investigator who will be exploring the scene.

Gordon Gallup, the first councilor for the Palisade Ward said he grew up in the valley and spent a lot of his time at the church.

When Gallup first heard about he fire, he said couldn’t believe it. “I thought, well, there will be a little smoke damage and everything will be just fine,” he said.

He was heartbroken when he learned that the church was destroyed.

The building, erected in 1948, has been a landmark in Swan Valley for decades. “Without a doubt this building has been a landmark in Swan Valley only second to what is known affectionately as to square ice cream,” community member Sharon Perry said.

There has been an outpouring of support in the wake of the fire from the community. “The people of this valley have to be the most resilient people I’ve ever met,” Gallup said. “And just to see help coming from different people has made a difference. It doesn’t matter what faith you belong to.”

Gallup also said a stake conference is scheduled Sunday at the Ririe Stake Center. An announcement by President Boyd Foster will be made. “However, at this point, it hasn’t been confirmed if we are planning on rebuilding or what exactly is the next step,” Gallup said.

Several fire departments helped with fighting the fire. They included Swan Valley, Jefferson County, Bonneville Fire District, Ammon, and Madison.

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