LOGANDALE -- Ila Winsor remembers 60 years ago when local Latter-day Saints made bricks by hand for the town's first Mormon chapel.
She was there for the church's dedication in 1951, and she worshipped there every Sunday since.
The first person baptized in the church was her daughter. And at 90, Winsor was recently dubbed its oldest living member.
But from her hilltop home on Wednesday, she witnessed a scene she hoped would never happen.
"I can't believe that building is burned," Winsor said, dropping her shoulders and gazing at the charred site a mile downhill.
The chapel, regarded as the "centerpiece of life" for many of its 1,400 members, was destroyed by an early morning blaze that broke out in a back room and spread to the nearby sanctuary.
Ace Robison, stake president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Moapa Valley, arrived on scene within 15 minutes of receiving the call. The 65-year-old Logandale native was greeted by flames erupting from the roof as the blaze moved through the attic.
"It was devastating," he said of the sight.
Robison worshipped at the church 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas for most of his life. He now oversees the 13 wards spread among five chapels in the historically Mormon farming communities of Logandale, Moapa and Overton.
The region is home to 7,200 people, most of them members of the Mormon church.
"It's a terrible loss for the community," said Bryant Robison, the stake president's older brother and a lifelong Logandale resident. "It meant a lot to the community. It meant a lot to me."
When he was in high school, Bryant Robison helped mix concrete and make bricks for the church.
"Every Saturday," he said.
Susan Whipple was a toddler when the chapel was dedicated 58 years ago, and the building played a big role in her life.
On Wednesday afternoon, she sat on a folding chair across the street as her son, Scott, helped break apart the smoking remains of a structure her father helped build.
Whipple rushed to the church around 6 a.m., about two hours after firefighters were called out.
She stayed for much of the day.
Other church members also were drawn to the scene, some pushing strollers and clutching cameras to snap a few final photos.
"It's not just a building," Whipple said.
Her father, Don Whitney, now 82, paid his tithing to the church by laying brick during the chapel's construction.
Whipple had her wedding reception in a back meeting room, and she later played piano at the church and led a Boy Scout troop that met there. Many of her children and grandchildren were blessed or baptized in the chapel.
"I'm just heartbroken," she said. "We lost a landmark and a place to worship."
The church was empty at the time of the fire, and no injuries were reported. A side office building containing the bishops' offices and church records was not seriously damaged.
As church members salvaged what they could from areas untouched by flames, Bishop Kent Barlow stopped to survey the charred debris.
"It really was a beautiful building," he said.
Barlow, who has been a bishop for four years, received the grim news at 4:15 a.m. He said he could see flames from his home about a mile away.
"I bawled the entire way here," he said.
The smoke and fire were so thick, firefighters could only battle the blaze from outside the building, Clark County fire spokesman Scott Allison said.
Parts of the structure were still smoldering around 9 a.m.
No official cause has been announced, but Ace Robison said fans left on overnight to dry recently shampooed carpeting could be to blame.
Allison said foul play is not suspected.
About 60 firefighters from volunteer units in Moapa Valley and Mesquite worked alongside county crews to battle the blaze. The fire crew included a number of church members, but Clark County firefighter Kurt Leavitt said they kept their focus.
"They knew they had a job to do," said Leavitt, who does not attend the church. "I'm sure later when they get a chance to rest, more emotions will kick in."
Church officials said they plan to rebuild.
Until then, other chapels will hold extra services to accommodate the three wards from the Logandale church.
Winsor called Wednesday a "very sad day" but said she'll keep the faith.
"Wherever they tell us to go, we'll go," she said.
Contact reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279. Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.