A 22-year-old Boise man was arrested and charged with two felonies after he allegedly set fire to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southwest Boise on Tuesday, Ada County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Patrick Orr told the Idaho Statesman.
Joshua Michael Blair was charged with arson in the first degree for burning a dwelling or structure that is normally occupied and burglary, according to online court records. He could face up to 25 years in prison.
As of Thursday, Blair was being held on a $100,000 bond and was in custody at the Ada County Jail, court and jail records showed. He is expected to appear in court for a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 11, according to online court records.
The Ada County Sheriff’s Office and Boise Fire Department crews responded to the fire, according to an online post. A firefighter who suffered a heat-related injury responding to the fire is back on duty, Boise Fire Department spokesperson Lynsey Amundson told the Statesman by email. The firefighter was held in rehab with the medical unit and has been rehydrated, Amundson said.
No other injuries were reported.
The church, located at 5645 S. Maple Grove Road, had “substantial and extensive” fire damage around the origin of the fire, which started at the north side of the building near the foyer at the entry way, Amundson told the Statesman on Thursday. The fire began on the first floor and moved up to the attic, according to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office.
Doors to the rooms past the foyer were closed, Amundson said, protecting the rooms from fire spread. Fire investigators concluded that evidence showed the fire was intentionally set, Amundson said.
“A witness told deputies they saw a man wearing a black sweatshirt leave the church area right before the fire started,” the post said. During the investigation, “a man approached a deputy at the scene and provided information that led deputies to Blair, who was sitting in a truck nearby.”
Inside the truck, Blair wore a black sweatshirt and had a bleeding hand, which police alleged he sustained while breaking a window to enter the church.
Blair was interviewed and booked into jail after 5 a.m. Tuesday, according to the post.
Members of the church are coping with the fire, Devon Winfield, volunteer for The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, told the Statesman.
“We’ve been able to adjust pretty quick,” Winfield said. “Everyone has a church they can go to.”