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Reward offered for information in arson case at under-construction Orem Temple

Posted at 12:32 PM, Sep 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-07 14:07:48-04

OREM, Utah — Two government agencies have offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of responsible parties who allegedly lit a fire at the under-construction Orem Temple.

“For a lot of people, that’s a pretty important place. For me, as well,” said Werner Hoppe, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who lives nearby. “I just think about it and I wish stuff like that wouldn’t happen.”

Initial calls for the fire were reported at 11:10 p.m. on Monday, July 25 at the Orem Temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, located at 1471 South Geneva Road.

FOX 13 News previously reported the fire started on the third floor of the building and foam was used to extinguish the fire, which limited water damage.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives put forward the reward Tuesday, saying that although investigators found fire damage in an isolated area, "significant smoke damage throughout the entire Temple [cost] thousands."

A video from the ATF shows surveillance of a person leaving the area around the same day and time the fire was started.

“Places of worship, in general, should all be kept safe,” said Caleb Petrick, who also lives nearby. “Everyone has a right to be there and have the right to have their place of worship kept safe.”

Many buildings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were vandalized this summer, including 14 chapels across Washington County and six in Sandy and Draper. Last summer, several churches in St. George were also set on fire.

“It of course saddens me that people are out there wanting to vandalize something that means so much to so many other people,” said Hoppe.

To send an anonymous tip, call 888-ATF-TIPS or call the Orem Police Department at 801-229-7070.

Construction is set to wrap up in 2023.

“Every day it seems like there’s something new getting put up or added and you can really see the progress flying by,” said Casey Berchtole, another member of the church who lives nearby.

“It’s like the biggest beacon of hope in the world: the Temple,” said Petrick. “It’s not going to stop and it’s still going to go up and it’s still going to be a beacon of light for the community.”