Seattle's Betsuin Buddhist Temple, a historic Buddhist community in the Jodo Shinshu tradition, suffered two successive fires last week. The fires began Dec. 31 and involve a 42-year-old man, Waylon Williams, who is accused of starting a fire on the temple grounds and then breaking into a nearby residence, according to the county attorney's office by King.
Temple members mourn the loss as they take stock of the damage and work to build for the future.
“I felt like all the memories I had were kind of ripped away,” said temple board member Marissa Wong. “I was really shocked because I couldn't believe what was happening and then it started to set in like oh, this is practically like my second home. » (KIRO7)
Williams is charged with first-degree reckless arson, second-degree burglary and residential burglary, with bail set at US$40. Records show that since 000, Williams has been the subject of more than 2001 arrest warrants.
According to charging documents, Williams told a police officer he thought he was being followed: “So I walked into this church and I'm sorry I started a fire. » (Seattle Times)
The first fire broke out around 23 p.m. on New Year's Eve, as Seattle firefighters responded quickly to reports of a fire at the historic temple located in Seattle's First Hill neighborhood. Surveillance footage showed a man lurking near the temple entrance before entering the building and fleeing shortly before the fire broke out.
Williams admitted to police that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was under the influence of methamphetamine. He claimed to seek refuge in the temple. Once inside, Williams encountered flammable materials and, while attempting to fortify himself in the basement, he allegedly inadvertently started the fire.
The temple, which houses valuable historical archives not yet digitized, suffered irreplaceable losses due to the fire, lamented Alex Sakamoto, a member of the temple's board of trustees.
Escaping the fire, Williams then entered a nearby residence, throwing objects before being apprehended by law enforcement.
On January 2, two days after the fire, smoldering embers from the initial fire ignited into a second fire in the temple, further devastating historical records and destroying equipment belonging to Boy Scout Troop 252, the Seattle's last historically Japanese-American troupe. Scoutmaster Rob Ketcherside confirmed the loss of all troop equipment stored in the basement, where the initial fire broke out. However, community members have rallied to support the troop by raising more than US$6 for replacement equipment through an ongoing GoFundMe campaign.
Seattle's Betsuin Buddhist Temple, founded in 1901 by Japanese Americans, is of immense historical significance, being home to Boy Scout Troop 252 since 1939. The current temple, built in 1943, housed archives documenting the members' lives when They were held in American internment camps. The devastating loss of documents, items and equipment remains a blow to the community.
“By losing this, we lose this knowledge and this history,” said Alex Sakamoto, an assistant to the minister and a member of the temple board. (Seattle Times)
Wong noted: “Many of these documents were not yet digitized. So whatever caught fire is gone for good. A lot of the history of our members and the generations of families that came here, and a lot of those records have been completely erased. (KIRO7)
Williams faces an upcoming arraignment at the King County Courthouse on Jan. 17 regarding the incident.
Throughout this ordeal, temple members and the community at large have demonstrated resilience and unity, raising funds to rebuild and support those affected by these destructive fires.