Oldest Sikh Gurdwara In North America Suffer Damage In Suspicious Fire

Ross-Street-temple fire4

headerThe Temple Is Currently Locked In A Fierce Election Battle Between Moderate Incumbents And Sikh Sangat Group, Who’s Leader Amar Sandhu Was Murdered Recently!

Ross-Street-temple fire3“The ventilation was non-existent,” said Firefighters Battalion Chief Les Achtyichuk, adding it was so hot inside that firefighters had to abandon their initial attack. “There was melted glass. So the fire crews got beaten up on this one pretty bad.”

SOUTH VANCOUVER – Sikhs’ oldest Gurdwara in North America suffered serious damage after it caught fire early Friday morning.

Firefighters are investigating the blaze that caused extensive damage to a historic Sikh temple in South Vancouver. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined.

The three-alarm fire was discovered when people showed up for early prayers at 2:30 a.m. and saw thick smoke coming from inside the Gurdwara on Ross Street.

“The ventilation was non-existent,” said Battalion Chief Les Achtyichuk, adding it was so hot inside that firefighters had to abandon their initial attack.

“There was melted glass. So the fire crews got beaten up on this one pretty bad.”

Firefighters were able to air out the building by knocking out skylights and punching holes in the roof, and the blaze was eventually found behind a wall on the second floor.

Ross-Street-temple fire2Brand-D-LogoSeveral weddings that were scheduled at the temple last weekend had to be canceled.

“There’s extensive smoke and heat and water damage so it’s not safe to have a wedding here,” Achtyichuk told reporters.

In the summer, the temple hosts between six and 10 weddings a month, and the guest list for a Sikh wedding can easily go into the hundreds.

Malkit Khosa’s daughter was supposed to be getting married at the temple in two weeks – but the fire damage has halted the plans, leaving his daughter “stressed and heartbroken.”

“She is sad… so sad,” Khosa told CTV News, noting that the family has been attending the historic temple since 1983. “We booked this temple almost 15 months ago.”

The Temple is currently locked in a fierce election battle between moderate incumbents and the Sikh Sangat Group, who’s leader, well known and controversial developer Amar Sandhu, was gunned down recently.

Ross-Street-temple fireThe Sikh Sangat Seva Society of Vancouver put out a press release, saying it was deeply saddened by recent news of a three-alarm fire at Khalsa Diwan Society Ross Street.

“We thank Emergency Response teams for taking swift action in containing the fire, and are thankful that no loss of life has been reported.  We are relieved to learn that our Holy Guru Granth Sahib Ji was not harmed during the fire,” Sikh Sangata said.

“We stand by, and in service-of, our community and Sangat-congregation during this difficult time.  We are committed to help in every possible way to restore Gurdwara operations and pray for services to resume quickly.”

Fortunately, firefighters were able to rescue some precious religious items from the temple.

The Khalsa Diwan Society said roughly 500 people visit the temple every day, and up to 600 attend on Sundays. Many worshippers came out to watch firefighters work to save the structure – the largest Sikh temple in the Vancouver – on Friday morning.

“This is very bad,” said Sohan Singh Deo, president of the society. “We just renovated this building recently. We spent millions of dollars on this building, so whatever happened tonight, it’s really, really very hurting to my whole community.”

The damage could take months to fix. Temple officials said there is another, much smaller building across the street they plan to use in the meantime, but it’s unclear if it will be able to accommodate all of their worshippers.

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