A massive fire destroyed the 550-square-meter dormitory of the Amitabha Buddhist Society of Philadelphia on Saturday. The dormitory was unoccupied at the time, and no one was reported injured.
The structure, part of the society’s Mituo Village (MV), is located in the township of Hereford, approximately 60 kilometers northwest of Philadelphia in a rural area between Reading and Allentown.
According to the state police fire marshal, people were in the adjoining temple when the fire began at around 10:30 a.m. local time, but everyone was able to evacuate safely. One hundred firefighters from surrounding counties responded to the fire. One firefighter was transported to the hospital, while another was treated at the scene for injuries sustained while putting out the blaze.
The police fire marshal also said that the fire originated outside the building and was the result of an accident. About half of the building was destroyed. The cost of the damage has been estimated at US$1 million.
Nester Video Production, a local company, was on the scene and caught footage of the numerous fire trucks and firefighters on the scene as the blaze was brought under control.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Buddhist group’s services had been held online through Zoom. A statement on the Amitabha Buddhist Society of Philadelphia website said simply: “Amituofo! Respected Dharma brothers and sisters: Due to the fire accident at MV, MV Zoom cultivation will be temporarily suspended until further notice, please check MV website for the latest updates.” (Amitabha Buddhist Society of Philadelphia)
The Amitabha Buddhist Society of Philadelphia complex sits on a 56-hectare parcel of partially wooded land formerly owned by the United Church of Christ. The area formerly served as a church camp and host to workshops and retreats. The Amitabha Buddhist Society of Philadelphia purchased the land and buildings in 2014.
Rev. William P. Worley, PSEC conference minister, said in 2014: “We have an exciting and extraordinary opportunity to continue our connection with what is for many in the PSEC sacred ground, and to do so in partnership with new friends whose stewardship of the Earth, quest of spiritual wellness, and respect for tradition mirrors our own.” (The Times Herald)
At the time, an Amitabha Buddhist Society spokesman said that they wished to honor the spiritual traditions of the land and not disturb it as they took over.
“The society’s first and foremost mission is to establish The Pure Land Learning Center in the holy ground,” he said. “Secondly, the society will earnestly seek to work with PSEC to continue the retreat and leadership training programming on the Mensch Mill property in the near future; and thirdly we will seek to partner with other interested parties to create the next Multi-Faith Multi-Cultural Center as a model city of peace and harmony.” (The Times Herald)
The Amitabha Buddhist Society of Philadelphia practices in the Pure Land school of Buddhism, rooted in Chinese Mahayana Buddhism. Their website is available in English, Mandarin, and Vietnamese.
Mituo Village (Amitabha Buddhist Society of Philadelphia)
Mituo Village (Facebook)
Fire rips through dormitory at Buddhist temple in Hereford Township (update) (The Reporter Online)
3-Alarm Fire In Hereford, Berks County Damages Buddhist Temple (CBS Philadelphia)
Fire that destroyed dormitory of Buddhist temple in Berks caused over $1 million damage (The Times Herald)
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