Fire destroys Sikh temple under construction in Vancouver

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Fire swept through a Sikh temple and school that was under construction in Vancouver early Friday morning. Two workers who were asleep in the complex escaped without injury.

The Guru Ram Das Church essentially burned to the ground. The building is located on NE 20th Street close to Evergreen High School.

The building used to house the Landover Athletic Club and was being remodeled as a church and school. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Agents from the ATF, FBI, Vacouver Fire and Vancouver Police Department are all involved in the investigation. It is standard procedure for the ATF and FBI to be involved with the investigation when a religious facility is involved and the cause of the fire has not been determined.

The workers who escaped the flames said they heard "popping sounds" as they ran from the structure at about 2:30 a.m.

Vancouver Deputy Fire Marshall Chad Lawry said investigators would wait until daylight to begin work on determining a cause for the fire.

Lawry said there have been some problems at the homes of neighbors near the church, including mail theft, break-ins and tire slashings, but nothing associated with the church.

In August, a white supremacist and Army veteran opened fire inside a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing six people. The gunman died at the scene.

Leo Mikhailod, the head contractor and construction worker who was inside the building at the time, said there have been no problems at the church in regards to threats or any problems with neighbors, but he is suspicious about how fast the fire moved through the building.

Mikhailod said he was asleep in the structure because he is the head contractor on the project.