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Yasodhara Ashram fire poses ‘big loss, big challenge’

The roof of the temple at Yasodhara Ashram was extensively damaged by fire this month. - Submitted photo
The roof of the temple at Yasodhara Ashram was extensively damaged by fire this month.
— image credit: Submitted photo

The regional director for the East Shore of Kootenay Lake says the fire that badly damaged the temple at Yasodhara Ashram this month is a “big loss” that presents a “big challenge” for the yoga retreat.

Garry Jackman (pictured below) visited the burned Kootenay Bay landmark both in his elected role and as a builder and structural engineer, although he is not a paid consultant.

“We discussed options for removal and demolition,” he said. “It’s not your regular let’s-frame-a-house with-your-neighbor project. This is not going to be remedied in a few months.”

The fire broke out on the evening of June 5 in the structure’s domed roof and took crews about 12 hours to put out. Although the cause is unknown, it appears to have started between the outer roof and an inner stucco ceiling. No one was injured.

Jackman said before the fire they were actually talking about enlarging the water storage tank along Riondel Road to refill the local fire department’s pumper and provide additional fire support for the ashram. Unfortunately, the idea hadn’t yet come to fruition.

Jackman called the ashram an “economic driver” for the East Shore. “It draws a lot of visitors and it’s important to the community as a whole.”

On the bright side, he said the fire demonstrated the effectiveness of an automatic aid agreement recently adopted between the Riondel and Balfour-Harrop fire departments. The ashram blaze was the first time the latter department has responded to a structural fire on the East Shore.

Previously, the departments had a mutual aid agreement which saw Balfour-Harrop provide back-up in several serious car accidents, but Jackman said it required several steps to authorize. The automatic aid agreement is “much quicker and more effective.”

“The Riondel water supply is limited, so having the other pumper or tender coming with additional  supply and additional firefighters made a huge difference,” he said. “It worked out as well as it possibly could.”

The temple was built in 1992 based on the longtime vision of Swami Sivananda Radha and was used for daily devotional services.

The ashram has set up a page on its website to keep people up to date about rebuilding efforts on the temple. Although the temple was not covered by fire insurance, for several years they have been creating a self-insurance fund. However, the costs of deconstruction and rebuilding are expected to exceed the fund. They are accepting donations and will be asking for help later during rebuilding.

Meanwhile, the ashram is proceeding with its 19th annual Strawberry Social next Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.

“This year, it feels particularly meaningful to welcome our neighbours and come together to recognize and celebrate our strength in community,” said Daniel Séguin, with the ashram. “We'll also be offering a special thank you to the emergency services crews that came out to help us on the night of the fire.”

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