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Sculptor optimistic after losing workshop in Mapleton fire

Posted at 9:57 PM, Jun 10, 2014

MAPLETON, Utah -- A well-known Mormon sculptor lost his personal shop in Mapleton Tuesday when it went up in flames.

Chances are you've seen some of Erasmo Fuentes' work. Visit Provo's Missionary Training Center and you can't miss this seven-foot tall life-size bronze sculpture of two missionaries on bikes. Fuentes created it in a career that’s spanned 30 years.

"I do the originals here (at his home shop) and the foundry does the casting,” Fuentes said.

But his home shop, located at 1100 S. Main St., is now a pile of rubble. Several bronze statues were damaged and stone carvings destroyed in a fire Tuesday afternoon.

"I think after I burned some weeds, I thought I put them out with the hose and evidently I didn't do a very good job," Fuentes said.

That was at 11 a.m. By two in the afternoon, Fuentes went into the bathroom and felt the heat through the window.

"When they got here, the barn was fully engulfed,” said Mapleton Fire Chief Ryan Withers.

Neighbors snapped photos as 40-foot flames torched trees and scorched a van in the shop. The fire then spread from two outbuildings to a chicken coop and other trees.

Luckily, the house was spared, Fuentes said

"It started almost getting into the house and everything, glad we got called when we did," Withers said.

No one was hurt and fortunately, flames didn't spread to neighbors' properties but inside that shop,

Fuentes was working on a nine-foot sculpture inside the shop. It was a sculpture of a famous Mexican union leader.

Fuentes said fortunately, it was casted a week ago but the original clay moldings melted in the fire.

Now, Fuentes has to decide whether to rebuild. It's all setting in as he's trying to remain optimistic.

"When I do a small piece, I can work out of the living room if I have to,” he said. "The worst thing is that the memories went, family videos from 38 years ago."

The loss of personal memories impacted Fuentes the most but he estimates the damage at between $40,000 to $50,000.

Meanwhile, investigators are still trying to determine where the fire started and the specific cause but they think this is simply an unfortunate accident.