Fire destroys beloved meetinghouse in Idaho

SWAN VALLEY, IDAHO

Latter-day Saints in this eastern Idaho community are grieving the loss of a beloved meetinghouse destroyed by fire on Dec. 6.

Flames gutted the Palisades Ward building, leaving behind little more than a few exterior brick walls and decades worth of memories.

“There have been a lot of tears,” said Ririe Idaho Stake President Boyd S. Foster. “It’s an emotional time for [Palisades Ward] members. Everyone in this valley has a connection to that building.”

A man who was inside the building tuning pianos smelled smoke and escaped without injury, said President Foster. Volunteer fire crews arrived to find flames visible from outside the building. The blaze moved quickly through the building.

“It’s a complete loss,” he added.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. There is no sign of arson.

The disaster has brought together the Swan Valley community. Despite the winter cold, members gathered outside the remains of the building to swap stories and hugs. Meanwhile, the pastor of a non-denomination church in Swan Valley told local LDS leaders that the Palisades Ward is welcome to meet in her congregation’s chapel.

The meetinghouse was built in the late 1940’s with funds and labor donated by local members. It served as a place of worship and community gatherings — hosting countless basketball games, wedding receptions, ward parties and other memorable events, said President Foster.

It’s uncertain where the Palisades Ward will meet for Sunday services, at least for the near future. The Ririe Idaho Stake Conference is scheduled for Dec. 11.

[email protected] @JNSwensen