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Firefighters Battle Blaze, Save Arizona Temple

Accidental Fire Began at Construction Building; No Injuries Reported


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Nearly 100 firefighters battled and extinguished a massive overnight fire Feb. 4 at a construction building next to the Arizona Buddhist Temple — and saved the temple from ruin.


The temple suffered some exterior damage, Arizona Minister’s Assistant Rev. Lynn Sugiyama said, and he added that the Hondo and Onaijin areas were not damaged. The Arizona Buddhist Temple was able to continue its Sunday services.


No one was injured in the fire and the cause of the fire is under investigation.


“First off, I want to express my relief at the news about the Arizona Buddhist Temple being saved from the accidental fire,” Supervising Minister Rev. Gregory Gibbs said.


“We were lucky,” Rev. Sugiyama said. “There was no smoke or fire damage inside.”


The report of a fire next to the Arizona Buddhist Temple comes less than two months after an arson fire on Dec. 31, 2023, at the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple destroyed thousands of historical documents and shuttered the temple.


The Arizona fire was reported around 11:30 p.m. Feb. 4. Phoenix fire officials were called to the area of 43rd Avenue and Indian School Road in West Phoenix for reports of a debris fire on the east side of the Arizona Buddhist Temple. When firefighters arrived, they found a large fire in a debris pile of a storage lot for a construction company.


The firefighters, concerned that the fire could spread to the temple, called a second alarm for reinforcements. Nearly 100 firefighters from multiple municipalities were at the scene to battle the flames, according to a report on Fox 10 Phoenix.  


The fire broke windows at the temple on the east side, and the heat melted many of the temple’s roof tiles, Rev. Sugiyama said.


The firefighters broke down the main doors of the temple, Rev. Sugiyama said.


“We will have the insurance from the construction business pay for the damages,” Rev. Sugiyama said. He said the insurance carrier would assess the damage.   


The Arizona Buddhist Temple has had a previous brush with an accidental fire. On March 13, 1957, a fire burned down the temple. 


Until the Arizona temple was rebuilt, services were held at a barrack from the Gila River mass detention camp that was moved to the temple grounds in Phoenix. The new temple was dedicated on Oct. 1, 1961.


Fox 10 Phoenix and ABC 15 Arizona, and Wheel of Dharma Correspondent Ralph Honda contributed to this article.


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