A fire destroyed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel in Cherry Creek on Thursday, January 9.
According to Eagle Butte Volunteer Firefighter Gage Jewett, the initial call about the fire came in around midnight and local fire and law enforcement agencies responded, including Ziebach County Sheriff’s Department, Dupree Volunteer Fire Department, and CRST Tribal Police.
The Eagle Butte Volunteer Fire Department was activated at 1:38 a.m. and by that time “the glow from the fire could be seen as far away as Eagle Butte,” said Jewett.
Upon arriving on scene, Jewett described the chapel as completely engulfed, and that two fire hydrants near the structure were tapped into.
“We immediately went into defending mode to try to save the structure. The fire is believed to have started in the basement, and there was no saving it at all,” said Jewett.
Cherry Creek resident June Little Shield said she was asleep when she received a call after 1 a.m. from an acquittance who asked if the rumor was true about the church being on fire. Little Shield said she went outside and saw the massive flames and could not believe her eyes.
The church was active, with a congregation of 25-30 members, said former church Branch President Inu Inukihaangana.
“It was a beautiful church, in the middle was all Native American designs on ceramic tile with nice blue ocean colors,” said Inukihaangana, who described the fire as shocking.
Elder missionaries normally hold services every Sunday at 2 pm, and now it is unclear where services will be held, said Inukihaangana.
News of the fire’s destruction spread across social media, with people posting their memories of the church.
Nadine Shaving described the church as “a new journey” for her family and said when she was younger, she asked her mom for permission to join the church after meeting some missionaries. Her mom responded that she would let her know her answer only after meeting with the missionaries herself.
“I remember her coming home and saying to me, ‘I will join with you.’ Happiest day of my life! My entire family joined,” stated Shaving.
Other individuals commented that everything happens for a reason, and that although what happened to the church was deeply saddening, they believed that some good would come of it.
Jewett stated that the fire is still under investigation and he could not comment about how he thought the fire started.