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UPDATED: Fire At Mormon Temple Burns Building On Church Grounds

The fire broke out around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning and was extinguished half an hour later. No one was injured.

UPDATED, 1:35 p.m.

Firefighters were on the grounds of the massive Mormon temple in Westwood early Tuesday morning extinguishing and investigating the cause of an overnight fire that damaged a building that was under construction.

No one was injured in the fire and no other buildings were reportedly damaged. The affected building, a residence for the mission president, is about 4000 square feet, located behind the temple and the visitors' center. Some of the residence's frame still stands, blackened by the flames. An adjacent building, a residence planned for the temple's president also under construction, was not damaged as much. Most of it still stands.

A Los Angeles Fire Department House of Worship Task Force, part of the department's counter-terrorism unit, was dispatched to the scene for an arson investigation, but that is the standard response for any fire at a religious site, said Matt Spence of LAFD. It is not known whether electric equipment was at the construction site at the time, and an estimate of the cost of the damage is also not available.

The temple has not had any threats recently, said Matthew Ball, director of public affairs for the temple.

The temple has 24-hour surveillance and foot patrols. The gates to the temple are closed from midnight until around 4-4:30 a.m., though pedestrians get in by hopping over a low bar at the north end of the grounds, Ball said.

Initially reported at 1:01 a.m., the fire at the Los Angeles California Temple overlooking Santa Monica Boulevard was out at 1:27 a.m., said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Tom Sammartano.

"The flames were probably thirty feet in the air and had engulfed the whole building," resident Erin Smith wrote in an email to Westwood-Century City Patch.

Construction on the two residences began earlier this fall and it will resume after the investigation is complete, Ball said. Originally, completion was expected in April 2012.

Sirens blared around 1 a.m. and a helicopter hovered over the temple, which is 257 feet at its highest point. Built in 1956, the temple was the first of its kind in California and was once the largest Mormon temple before the temple in Salt Lake City was expanded.

Did you take photos or video of the scene last night? Upload them to this story or email them to saraf@patch.com.

Check back with Westwood-Century City Patch as we follow this story.

Erin Smith January 10, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Got a great view of the blaze from my house last night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1YYUxow-lA&list=HL1326207062&feature=mh_lolz
Scott Mc January 10, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Another view from across Santa Monica: http://youtu.be/DvedthkFODE

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