Firefighters are still investigating what caused a fire to break out at the Payson Living Word Bible Church in Star Valley Monday evening.
The church’s pastor said he plans to hold Sunday services outside on the property until a temporary location is found.
The fire, which broke out around 8:50 p.m., destroyed the back lower half of the church in the 90 block of Cornerstone Way behind Tree Pro. The nursery and stairwell were badly damaged while the kitchen and chapel only sustained smoke damage.
Firefighters were able to stop the flames from spreading to the upper floor and front half of the building within 15 minutes, said Hellsgate Battalion Chief Doug Blazer.
The pastor’s office and second floor rooms were left undamaged, but authorities said it was unsafe to walk on the second floor.
A church member driving down Cornerstone Way saw smoke billowing out of the church and called police. The member then pounded on the on-site caretaker’s door who was watching a movie at the time, said church pastor and founder Cliff Richey. No one was inside the church at the time the fire started.
Richey said he was in the church around 1 p.m. Monday to pick up some items. He does not know when the caretaker was last in the church because he often checks the locks at night.
Richey founded the non-denominational national church in Payson in 2003. He moved it to the Star Valley location in 2006 and had plans to paint the upstairs classrooms next week.
Investigators said they have completed their on scene investigation, but are continuing interviews with the caretaker and any witnesses. Richey is working with his insurance company to secure a temporary location for services, until then, services will be held outside on the property. Five engines, two water tenders and 19 firefighters from Hellsgate and Payson fire departments responded.