The July 25 late-night fire at the under-construction Orem Utah Temple is being investigated as arson, with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives now offering a cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
In an ATF news release issued Tuesday, Sept. 6, the bureau announced a reward of up to $5,000.
The day after the fire, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked for the bureau’s assistance in the investigation.
“In recent years there has been an unfortunate worldwide increase of violence, vandalism and desecration of religious sites and buildings, including shootings, arson, graffiti, damage to facilities, and more,” said Church spokesman Doug Andersen in a Sept. 6 statement. “This has also affected chapels and temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such sites are places of gathering and sacred worship and should be places of peace and safety.
“We are grateful for the efforts of local and federal law enforcement officials to investigate such instances and prosecute those who engage in those actions.”
Shortly after 11 p.m. July 25, neighbors and motorists driving on nearby I-15 called 911 to report seeing flames inside and smoke coming from the top floor of the temple, being constructed at 1471 S. Geneva Road.
Arriving firefighters found only light smoke and minimal fire activity in a third-floor utility room. “Foam was used to extinguish the fire as much as possible, which limited water damage to the construction site,” said Andersen at the time.
However, the incident caused “significant smoke damage throughout the entire temple,” according to the ATF, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage.
The Orem temple — three stories and 70,000 square feet in size — was one of eight announced on Oct. 5, 2019, by President Russell M. Nelson during the Saturday evening women’s session of general conference.
The First Presidency announced the temple site on Dec. 11, 2019, 15.39 acres just west of Interstate 15, near Utah Valley University. Elder Craig C. Christensen, a General Authority Seventy and then president of the Church’s Utah Area, presided at the Sept. 5, 2020, groundbreaking ceremony, offering both remarks and the dedicatory prayer.
No completion date has been officially announced, but the temple is expected to be finished sometime in 2023.
Those with information should contact the ATF at (888) ATF-TIPS (1-888-283-8477) or the Orem Police Department at (801) 229-7070. Information can also be sent to ATFTips@atf.gov or through ATF’s website at www.atf.gov/contact/atftips.
Also, tips can be submitted anonymously using the Reportit® app, available from both Google Play and the Apple App store, or by visiting www.reportit.com.