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For close to eight months, the burned out hulk of a chapel at the New Beginnings Church on East Road just sat there.
It served as a stark reminder of a blaze that erupted July 4, enveloping the chapel and causing significant smoke damage to the other parts of the property on East Road.
On Friday, crews from Parker Construction of Los Alamos leveled the chapel and one of the back buildings.
Pastor Shawn Amburgey could not have been happier.
“It’s exciting to me that we are finally seeing some progress,” Amburgey said before construction crews began their demolition work. “The community and people who drive by this every day had to be wondering why nothing was happening with the church.”
As it turned out, there was plenty going on behind the scenes.
Amburgey was dealing with his insurance claim, hiring contractors and trying to handle a mountain of paperwork, which also entailed getting county approval for planning and zoning purposes.
“People don’t see that work was going on and how much work is being put into it,” Amburgey said. “We were all working very diligently and all of this takes time.”
And before the demolition could begin, there was the matter of asbestos abatement.
Amburgey said that went on without a hitch.
“They said it was going to take 15 days but it only took nine,” Amburgey said.
Crews also had to separate the back building from the main building.
Finally, with the behind-the-scenes work done, it was time for the demolition crew to get to work. And they wasted no time.
The bulldozer hit one of the walls; the cinderblock crumbled and hit the ground, there was a little puff of dusty smoke.
Amburgey filmed the entire event from different angles.
By the end of the day, the chapel and back building area was reduced to a pile of rubble.
The work, though, is far from complete.
Amburgey said there are plans to rebuild the chapel area and the building in back of the main structure. He estimates the work will cost about $200,000. The main structure will be renovated to match the two new buildings. Amburgey said the building and renovating work will be done by Hans Construction of Santa Fe.
“It is probably going to take another six to eight months to finish,” Amburgey said.
Amburgey said the church has received donations from other churches in Los Alamos and across the state.
“We are very thankful for that,” Amburgey said.
While crews work on the New Beginnings Church, Amburgey said services will continue at the Reel Deal Theater.
On Sunday, Amburgey said he will present plans for the church to his congregation.
“For most, it will be the first glimpse of what the church will look like,” Amburgey said.
The fire started in the chapel area of the New Beginnings Church on the morning of July 4.
The Los Alamos Fire Department has a station just across the street and other units rolled in to help put out the blaze.
The State Fire Marshal was called in.
Also called in were investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The theories abounded when the ATF was called in. That organization is called in when places of worship catch fire and if there is a possibility of arson.
Amburgey was interviewed numerous times and was cleared after investigators pored through a mountain of evidence.
The fire apparently started in an electrical outlet near the stage area of the chapel.
“It just took a while to get the results back,” LAFD Fire Chief Troy Hughes said back in August. “Usually with a flammable liquid, that can be found out rather quickly. But with this, they used microscopes and X-rays and all of that takes time. The investigators did a tremendous job and everybody wanted an answer quickly. I know I was getting a little impatient waiting to find out the results.”
At the time, Amburgey also admitted he was relieved.
“It has been stressful and there were no real suspects and I was the prime suspect by default,” Amburgey said. “Knowing I was innocent, it was still nerve-wracking because sometimes things can be read into and then they are misread. You never know what kind of evidence is out there.”