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Propane tanks explode during fire near Calif. Sikh temple

Fire destroyed a building used for religious classes in Sacramento County

By Ishani Desai , Rosalio Ahumada
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Multiple propane tanks exploded Monday afternoon near the largest Sikh temple in the Sacramento region as a fire ripped through an outlying building that houses religious classes and caused severe damage to nearby vehicles, authorities said.

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District officials were called about 3:30 p.m. to Gurdwara Sacramento Sikh Society, a temple in Sacramento County’s Vineyard neighborhood, for reports of a commercial fire. Worshipers were evacuated from the premises by sheriff’s deputies, and no injuries were reported, Metro Fire spokesman Battalion Chief Parker Wilbourn said.

“It is alarming,” said Bobbie Singh-Allen, Elk Grove’s mayor and a member of the gurdwara that attracts about 2,000 people per week.

The fire burned into the building’s attic, leaving behind a gutted frame, and caused a partial roof collapse, Metro Fire officials said. Firefighters cut holes in the roof to ventilate the flames and smoke and stop the fire from spreading throughout the building.

Soot charred one side of the structure as flames also ravaged two vehicles, according to photos and videos shared by Wilbourn.

“It didn’t appear like anything out of the norm,” Wilbourn said about the burning parked cars.

It’s unclear what caused the blaze that later ignited at least six 50-to-100-pound propane tanks, causing smoke that could be seen for miles, Wilbourn said. Parts of two or three propane tanks jettisoned 50 feet away, he said.

The fire sparked just outside the structure situated near the temple’s entrance, Wilbourn said. Flames didn’t spread to the main temple and stayed inside the building of origin, he said.

Wilbourn didn’t know if anyone was inside when the blaze erupted. A sheriff’s deputy was the first to arrive at the scene and made sure nobody was inside the burning building, Wilbourn said.

“This is not something we feel that somebody came and planted something or did something malicious (to cause the propane tank explosions),” Wilbourn said. “At this point, we’re not concluding anything is suspicious. We’re just doing our normal investigation to get all the pieces together.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Wilbourn said investigators had not yet determined where exactly the fire started.

Traffic was blocked off along Gerber and Bradshaw roads, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Amar Gandhi said. Vehicle traffic was being stopped on Bradshaw Road in both directions as of 4:30 p.m.

Singh-Allen said she was scared and rushed over after hearing the explosion reports and being asked by the gurdwara’s management to come to the scene.

“It’s upsetting, but thankfully there was no loss of life,” she said.

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