New Gurdwara in Portland, Oregon Razed by FireSTUART TOMLINSON
Portland, Oregon, USA
For nearly five years, about 250 Sikh families worshipped and met at their small gurdwara - the Guru Ram Das Gurdwara - in the east Vancouver Landover-Sharmel neighborhood of Portland. The largest Sikh group in the Portland metro area, they scrimped and saved, eventually collecting enough money to buy the aging Landover Athletic Club in the Northeast Vancouver neighborhood.
Pawneet Singh Sethi, a spokesman
for the Sikh community, said the Guru Ram Das Gurdwara in the 3600 block of O Street was just too small to handle the
So they sacrificed, coming up with about $750,000 to buy the large building and property in the 13400-block of Northeast 20th Street and Village Green Drive, just west of Evergreen High School.
"The Sikh community was looking for a space to could grow into," Pawneet Singh said. "During special days of the year we just got packed up at the 3600 O Street property; the gurdwara just could not handle the 200- to 250-family congregation."
All of it went up in smoke early Friday, October 12, 2012, as flames roared through the building. By first light, the ruins smoldered beneath lowering skies and rain while Vancouver firefighters doused the remaining hot spots.
Neighbors reported hearing several loud explosions during the fire. A natural gas line may have fueled the flames, said Deputy Fire Marshal Chad Lawry.
It will be at least a day, however, until investigators can enter the building to search for a cause, officials said.
Vancouver Fire investigators will get an assist from investigators with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBi; federal investigators are usually involved in any U.S. fire involving a church, officials said.
"It's just really, really shocking for the entire community to deal with this stressful news," Pawneet Singh said. "It's very, very painful."
Two construction workers staying in the building were awakened by the fire, which was reported at 2:25 am, said Capt. Kevin Murray, a spokesman for the Vancouver Fire Department.
"When we arrived the building was fully involved, with flames coming from everywhere; and everybody had gotten out," Murray said. "At that point, we went into a defensive attack."
The new gurdwara was just six to eight weeks from completion, part of a nearly $500,000 remodel that included a large commercial kitchen, a school for children and basketball court from the old athletic club converted into the worship hall; it was used occasionally for worship during construction.
The last cosmetic changes to the building – paint, carpeting and interior trim work was well under way, Pawneet Singh said. In all, he said, the community had sunk about $1.4 million into the property and the remodel.
"For 200 to 300 families to put together a project of this magnitude, you can only imagine what we went through financially and emotionally," Pawneet said. "That just adds to the pain."
He said the building is insured, and the congregation will rebuild. He said there are no indications that the building was intentionally torched. He said it appeared the people who live in the homes around the building were glad to see it being remodeled.
"We're hoping this is nothing more than a natural fire," he said. "We will wait for the investigators to do their job. But we will rebuild – we're not going to stay down."
[Courtesy: The Oregonian]
October 13, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Amardeep (USA), October 14, 2012, 10:44 AM.
Do we have any more information? Does the local sangat classify this as a hate crime?