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The 31-year-old San Jose stake center was seriously damaged by an arson fire Feb. 2, although additional damage was prevented by fire-retardant siding, according to firefighters.

The Cherry Avenue facility, the first stake center in the city, received $110,000 in damage from a fire that burned in the ceiling for 45 minutes before it exploded. Shortly afterward a team of 18 firefighters and six trucks contained the fire in about 15 minutes.Officials said the damage was the work of an arsonist.

The fire caused extensive damage to one classroom and two halls, and smoke was carried through ventilation ducts and resulted in damage throughout the building, said stake Pres. Laurence Peterson.

"The experts said the fire burned at least 45 minutes before it was discovered," said Ray Harris, a carpenter. "That means the ceiling contained the fire until it exploded." Last summer, he helped install siding of a flame retardant material that protected the rest of the building from becoming engulfed by the fire.

Members of various wards in the stake are volunteering to help in the aftermath of the fire. Ward members formed teams to perform custodial care of their own buildings to allow custodians to concentrate their efforts on the stake building, said Nolan Lambert, physical facilities representative.