WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – A fire ripped through a Buddhist temple in Westminster Monday morning and injured a monk.

The Lao Buddhist Temple of Colorado, located at 106th and Dover, was heavily damaged and it’s assumed some religious artifacts inside were damaged.

The fire broke out just after 6 a.m. and continued to smoke after daybreak. At one point firefighters were pulling down walls inside in an effort to prevent Buddha statues and other religious artifacts from being destroyed.

Ounkham Vennasack, 77, a senior monk at the temple, was taken to the hospital after he suffered burns on his forehead and inhaled some smoke. After waking to find the temple in flames, he ran out of his sleeping quarters and warned monks in the small house next door to get out. He is expected to fully recover.

Vennasack helped build the temple 30 years ago.

There were more than 50 gold, bronze and ivory Buddhas inside the temple, including one that is more than 15 feet tall. Temple secretary Fy Khanthathixay said they had been passed through the generations, and that some were more than 100 years old.

“I’m glad that everybody was still alive and got out in time. That was my main concern this morning,” Khanthathixay said. “I don’t care — the rest of it. We can rebuild later.”

There was no immediate word on a cause of the fire, although officials said they didn’t think the circumstances were suspicious. Westminster fire officials said the building just passed inspection in the summer.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is assisting in the investigation, a fairly common procedure when there is a fire at a religious institution.

(credit: CBS)

The temple services more than 1,000 people, mostly from the Laotian community. It describes itself as follows on their website:

The Lao Buddhist Temple of Colorado was established in 1988 as a non-profit organization and have filed the article of incorporation with the State of Colorado. We have over 200 household members and a variety of services and educational programs available for everyone. The Lao Temple is a public place for everyone to come and enjoy our religious culture. Lao Buddhists belong to the Theravada tradition dissented from Sri Lanka, India, Cambodia, and Mahayana.

LINK: laobuddhisttempleofcolorado.com

Comments (3)
  1. John says:

    If must have no brain to write this comment. It’s call maximized the resources. We are not cheap and yes we are in America and we don’t attack others.

    Thank you!

  2. Larry L.Pranger says:

    as 99% of Asians do, they want price and never think about coverage. so, you got price and no fire coverage. bad Agent, good price, bad boad members. they
    don’t know what they are doing.you got what you paid for NOTHING. when will
    Asians ever learn.you have no insurance. your fault. you are to cheap, want cheap price, you get cheap coverage. you have what you bought, nothing. so,don’t complain. you cound not find the money to do it right the first time, how are you going to find the money to rebulid.? same way you would have if you had a good board, the ;people.now rebuild it on the money you saved by not buying insurance i know , i was there. cheap board members bad advice from former insurance agent being Laotian farmers agent. get smarter board members and don’t look for price, look for coverage, than price.you deserve this you are in America, not Laos.

  3. Lone Puma says:

    Apparently First Bank is unfamiliar with the word of God and what it says about worshiping Idols. In the Old Testament, there are many places where God destroyed those worshiped idols and brought a curse on the land.

    God will no longer tolerate idolatry, as these curses will come on those who practice or support idolatry!

    America was to be a light to the world, sending out the truth to all nations without salvation. And now, First Bank’s actions are seen as defiant as they oppose the written word of God.

    Shame on you First Bank! I say, let all the curse of God Almighty come upon your banks!!

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