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Fire damages LDS Conference Center

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Fire crews responded to the LDS Conference Center after witnesses reported smoke and the sprinkler system was triggered.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Fire crews respond to the LDS Conference Center after witnesses reported smoke in the basement Monday night.

Someone from inside the church building called 911 around 8:15 p.m. when they noticed smoke coming from the mechanical room. 

Fire dispatchers told ABC 4 the smoke then triggered the building's sprinkler system.

The sprinklers were positioned almost directly above the pulpit in the Conference Center and dumped thousands of gallons of water below.  Most of the water fell on the first ten rows of seats in and area about 30 to 40 feet wide. 

Water also fell on the pulpit and on the seats used by the General Authorities. 

About 100 LDS workers worked through the night Monday sucking up the water. 

The Church also hired private contractors to help remove all the water. 

The fire caused fire and smoke damage, but it was mostly contained to the maintenance room. 

Forty firefighters responded to the 2-alarm call-out.

No flames were reported and crews quickly had the incident under control. 

The church was working to clean up major water damage from the sprinklers. Crews also reported several feet of water in the building's basement.

In a statement released to the public, church spokesman Scott Trotter said, "The fire at the Church Conference Center was limited to a backup power supply cabinet in an electrical control room above the main auditorium. Two sprinkler heads functioned as designed and extinguished the fire. Water overflow to the auditorium floor below was limited to a 50-foot area in front of the podium but did not cause significant damage. Water in the affected area has been extracted and fans are being used to dry the carpet and chairs. The actual cause of the fire remains under investigation."

The Conference Center is no stranger to odd damage. While under construction in August of 1999, cranes being used on the project were toppled by a rare tornado that hit downtown Salt Lake City. The cranes cause some damage to the outer structure and some workers were injured, but construction went forward and the center was completed by spring of 2000. It was dedicated by LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley in October of 2000 during the Church's Semi-annual General Conference.

Part of a walnut tree planted by Hinckley decades before was used to construct the pulpit.

The building was announced by Hinckley in 1996, who noted the increased demand for seating during General Conference sessions that had been held at the Salt Lake Tabernacle since the 1860s.


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