After a fire damaged parts of the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple (IOBT) last summer — shutting down in-person services in the Hondo — the temple is now making substantial progress in its overall restoration.
“IOBT is progressing,” IOBT Co-President Mike Iseri said. “Sometimes, the progress is fast and furious while other times it crawls. Much of this is due to labor issues and supply chain issues.”
The fire occurred on July 8, 2022, and caused extensive damage to the temple’s basement. The Hondo, Onaijin, and Nokotsudo suffered smoke damage. The apparent cause was a faulty electrical outlet. (See “Fire Damages IOBT Basement; Hondo, Onaijin Are Spared,” August 2022, Wheel of Dharma)
Because of the suspected presence of hazardous material, the temple didn’t begin cleanup work until about a month after the fire. The hazardous material assessment determined that only the floor tile contained asbestos.
Fire damage was initially estimated at $750,000, Iseri said. But he said the estimate was before the assessment was made and before an insurance adjuster was on site.
He said the insurance coverage “appears to be fairly complete. The insurance company has been very fair and forthcoming with advances so we can cover expenses as we pay them.”
Iseri noted the following projects and their status:
The Hondo lighting has been updated, brightening things and reducing glare.
A new speaker system is in process.
HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) installation and upgrades are nearly complete.
Cables have been pulled for the computer, video and microphones.
Painting on the Onaijin has been slow because of the need to work around the altar. An altar cleaning company in Japan is scheduled to come out for a week sometime after May.
Electrical work in the basement has been roughed in, meaning that all the electrical cables have been pulled through the studs of the wall and that boxes for light switches, outlets, and receptacles have been placed. But the wiring has not been connected to the breaker box and the various switches, outlets, and receptacles have not yet been installed.
The floor covering is not done and floor staining is scheduled in late May. The temple is waiting for plumbing and HVAC work, insulation and inspections before sheetrock can be installed.
Iseri said the work in the kitchen will have “a bare bones commercial-type kitchen installed. We're starting with only what we know we need. As we use it, we may be adding more to suit future needs. But, we're trying to be very careful to avoid buying things that we don't really need.”
The wood floor of the Onaijin needs to be stripped and refinished, along with some other wood pieces. The status of the pews is unresolved. The temple is waiting on new fabric samples because it found the chosen fabric was problematic to obtain, Iseri said.
“We have a steady stream of work appointments through May,” he said.
“As much as possible, we're using local contractors that we know,” he continued. “It goes a little slower that way, but it gives our board a better chance to adjust and tweak along the way. The end result should serve us better.”
Iseri said the temple hopes to be able to use the Hondo this summer, and said the rest of the temple will require more time. But no target date has been set because the work is being done in stages.
He thanked the BCA Sangha members and IOBT Sangha members for their donations for the temple and for the IOBT Sangha Taiko, which was also temporarily displaced by the fire. The taiko group used the basement for practice and stored its taiko drums in the basement.
Meanwhile, the IOBT is holding in-person services at 392 SW 3rd St. in Ontario, Oregon, the former office space of Iseri Travel. The office space is able to accommodate up to 30 people and has a large TV for Zoom participants to join in the services, and the temple has been conducting monthly hybrid services. The temple is also holding the shotsuki memorial services on the first Sunday on Zoom only.
“All in all, we are as lucky as we could be,” Iseri said. “The Sangha has been supportive and has maintained their habits for pledge, memorial donations and the like. We have extra hands helping when we need it, although the bulk of the work is being done by local contractors. As unfortunate as it was to be stricken with the fire, we're
trying to look at it as an opportunity.”