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.”Tanushri Sundar, Alex Brizee, and Ian Stevenson of the Idaho Stateman; published on August 4th, 2022
Below is the press release from the Ada County Sheriff Office
A 22-year Boise man is charged with first-degree arson in connection with a fire that extensively damaged a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church on South Maple Grove Road early Tuesday.
Joshua M. Blair is also charged with felony burglary in connection with the incident. Blair is being held in the Ada County Jail on a $100,000 bond.
Ada County Sheriff’s deputies and Boise Fire crews responded to a report of a fire at 5645 S. Maple Grove Road shortly after 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. Fire crews arrived to find an active fire on the first floor that moved into the attic space.
Crews were able to knock the blaze down quickly but not before the church sustained significant fire damage.
A witness told deputies they saw a man wearing a black sweatshirt leave the church area right before the fire started.
Deputies began investigating and looking for the man in the area. It was during that investigation when a man approached a deputy at the scene and provided information that led deputies to Blair, who was sitting in a truck nearby.
Blair was wearing a black sweatshirt. One of his hands was bleeding. Deputies later determined Blair injured his hand when he broke a window to get inside the church.
Deputies developed evidence and interviewed Blair, determined he set the fire on purpose, and arrested him on the first-degree arson charge, booking him into the jail just after 5 a.m. Tuesday.
Blair is charged with burglary because there is evidence he broke into the church with the intent to set it on fire.
The charge of first-degree arson is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Blair’s next court appearance is set for Aug. 11.Ada County Sherif Office