Three months after a suspicious fire destroyed part of an empty church in Star Valley, another blaze broke out Saturday night, this time reducing the building to a pile of ash.
Hellsgate fire investigators are treating the latest blaze at the Payson Living Word Bible Church as suspicious.
“Clearly this is a suspicious fire,” Hellsgate Captain John Wisner said. “There was no gas, water or electric connected, and there were no furnishings inside. It had been stripped, even the fixtures were gone.”
A July 13 fire destroyed much of the lower half of the church, but firefighters kept it from spreading upstairs. Fire officials believe the fire started near a back bathroom, however, they could find no known heat sources in that location.
Although a specific cause was never determined for that fire, Wisner said arson is suspected because several items were missing from the church.
After that fire, the church was closed and everything removed.
The latest fire, which erupted around 10 p.m. on Sunday, was reported after someone saw smoke billowing from the church, in the 90 block of Cornerstone Way, behind Tree Pro.
By the time the first engine arrived on scene three minutes later, the church was already fully engulfed, Wisner said.
A supervising captain later told Wisner that when he arrived he could see through the windows that the fire was spread throughout the church.
Wisner said this adds to the suspicion that someone started the fire because most fires start small and are discovered before they spread. The church is also visible from Highway 260, so someone should have noticed the fire quickly.
“It is highly suspicious that someone started it, but it is still under investigation,” he said.
It took firefighters an hour and a half to get the fire under control. By the time they did, the church had burned to the foundation.