An under-construction gurdwara meant to serve Portland metro area's largest Sikh community in the US state of Washington was destroyed in a fire said to be caused by a gas leak.
The former athletic club-turned- gurdwara, valued at US $213,000, was reduced to ashes early Friday after the fire broke out just before 2.30am (local time) in the east Vancouver Landover-Sharmel neighbourhood, 'The Columbian' reported.
The Guru Ramdass Sikh community, the largest Sikh group in the Portland metro area with about 200 member families, had bought the building in 2008 and nearly completed renovations. They planned to open the gurdwara in December, Gurjit Singh, a member of the gurdwara committee, was quoted as saying.
"It was devastating," group president Sarabjeet Teja said of the fire. "We've been working on this for four years." The gurdwara stood in charred ruins as smoke filled the neighbourhood. Parts of debris of the building were spotted in yards hundreds of feet away. The local fire department said the building was a total loss. Fire department official Capt Kevin Murray said the fire was reported by neighbours. When the first engine arrived seven minutes later, the entire building was engulfed in flames, he said. "The captain of one of the engines said it was the largest fire he had ever seen and he's a 25-year veteran," Murray said.
Two men, believed to be construction contractors, were staying in the building. They were awakened by the fire and escaped without injury, Murray said.
The FBI and US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were on the scene and will investigate the fire along with the city fire marshal, the report said.