By Michelle Cornelius
A Buddhist temple in Garden Grove caught on fire on Wednesday, Feb. 6, causing $450,000 of damage. The fire was first reported at 11:30 p.m. at Chua Vien Minh Temple. When the fire department was called at 11:40 p.m., thirty-two firefighters arrived to the 12200 block of Magnolia Street and put out the flames in around 30 minutes.
After an investigation, it was determined that the fire began due to unattended candles in the altar of the temple, although it is unknown how exactly the candle caused the combustion.
“We always caution that when you go to bed or leave the house to not leave candles unattended,” Capt. Thanh Nguyen of the Garden Grove Fire Department said.
Firefighters determined the building was a total loss. The worship site, a house that was converted to a temple six years ago, cannot to be rebuilt.
While the damage was astronomical, the fire caused no injuries. Two women were inside the living area at the time of the fire, but were woken up by the resulting commotion. They were able to exit unharmed. Flowers, food offerings, and plants were also untouched by the flames as well.
A few hours before the blaze, a celebration had taken place in the temple to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Red paper lanterns and decorations hung among the rubble. On Wednesday morning, temple-goers came to see the charred temple and take down decorations from the night before.
For the superstitious in the community, the fire is regarded as a bad omen for the year to come.
“The first day of new year, a thing like this happened. It’s not a good sign,” said Tony Nguyen, a neighbor of the temple.
When asked about the cause of the fire, frequent temple-goer Hanh Vo described how the operators of the temple were usually very careful.
With the temple gone, it is unclear what the next steps are or where the former temple worshippers will go.
“It’s very sad,” Vo said, as she looked at the remains of the former temple.