KAMLOOPS JAPANESE CANADIAN CULTURAL CENTRE DESTROYED BY FIRE
On the afternoon of February 4, 2008, the Kamloops Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre was destroyed by a fire that was likely caused by a heater used by a homeless person ‘squatting’ in a makeshift lean-to adjacent to the building. According to Betty Inouye, people were in the Centre at the time, but unaware of the fire. Fortunately, several off-duty firemen were passing by and noticed the fire. They alerted those inside, evacuated everyone and attempted to put the fire out before the fire department arrived.
Despite their efforts, the fire climbed the fence, went up the side of the building and into the roof. The fire spread quickly across the roof, destroying it, and bringing the ceiling down. The entire main floor of the building has been destroyed, and most of the furniture and other items inside are gone. Miraculously, most of the larger kitchen equipment are salvageable. All food items, crafts, display items, sales items, etc. were destroyed.
Says Betty, “The firefighters did an exceptional job of attacking the blaze and protecting the precious archival items. Most of the collection of historically significant material stored in the basement escaped serious damage. Among the items saved by the quick action of firefighters was a set of taiko drums that were recently purchased and placed in the basement only four days prior to the blaze.
“A restoration company has removed everything from the building, and is in the process of cleaning, restoring, and boxing the goods for storage. A contractor has been hired and is at present tearing down the remainder of the building and assessing the damage to the basement and foundation. Rebuilding should start in a few weeks.
“The Kamloops Buddhist Temple has kindly offered us the use of their temple, thus our member activities such as Seniors’ carpet bowling, Seniors Drop-In, Craft Group are continuing there. We have also rented store front space in the Northills Shopping Centre across from our Centre, and this will be our headquarters as of March 1. We will also be storing all our salvaged goods in the same area. If in the area, please drop in to see us.”
For those interested in supporting the Centre, fund raising efforts have started and a KJCA Rebuilding Account has bene opened. The first fund raising event is an Acoustic Guitar Concert on March 11 by The Groove Brothers who are touring BC. More fund raising events will be announced in the near future.
“The outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming. Offers of donations of goods, services, temporary accommodation and cash are being received daily. We wish to thank all the people from near and far who have offered assistance, support and words of encouragement,” says Betty Inouye.
The Cultural Centre was officially opened on November 5, 1994 and they are hoping to be back in the newly rebuilt Cultural Centre before November 5 of this year.