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Fire causes thousands of dollars in damage to Ontario drumming group's equipment

The value of a Taiko drum can range from $2,000-$3,000, but the history and significance of the drums make them far more valuable.

ONTARIO, Ore. — Members of an Ontario-based Japanese drumming group are asking for the public's help to replace their damaged drums after a fire caused thousands in damage.

Around 7:30 a.m. on July 8, security alarms at the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple alerted, Co-President of the Temple Mike Iseri to an electrical fire in the basement. 

Once Iseri got to the temple, he saw smoke coming from the church. He believes the amount of smoke was what triggered the alarm's motion sensor.

"I could see that the basement windows on the south side were black," Iseri said.

Fire crews responded quickly after Iseri called 911 and were able to get the fire under control before it spread to the second floor, where the Temple's altar is. Unfortunately, the flames had already caused tens of thousands in damage to the drums in the basement.

Credit: Sangha Taiko

The cause of the fire was determined to be a faulty electrical outlet and no injuries were reported, according to Iseri.

Fortunately, the temple's insurance will cover some of the damage, including Sangha Taiko, who uses the temple's basement for storage and practice space. However, the drumming group is unsure of how much that will cover the replacement cost of their equipment.

"I don't know. Some of [the drums] we might just have to say goodbye to," said Michelle Sadamori, a member of Sangha Taiko.

According to Taeko D'Andrea, another member of the group, the value of a Taiko drum can range from $2,000-$3,000, but the history and significance of the drums make them far more valuable.

Credit: Sangha Taiko

"The Japanese believed in olden days, the ancestors' spirits live in the drum," D'Andrea said. "People treated the Taiko drum as a sacred vessel. 

"That's why it's just like, 'How do you replace these?'"

The group said Taiko drumming communities from around the Treasure Valley and state have offered to help by giving them space to practice and even donating some of their own equipment.

"There are a lot of people from communities here or beyond who have been offering to help monetarily or donations of some drums," D'Andrea said.

Although there are multiple instruments needing to be replaced, the group has hopes of trying to repair some of the damaged drums.

"Some of the wooden parts of the drum, we might be able to sort of sand it down and refinish it," Sadamori said, "It'll have a few scars on it, but it's like war wounds, it survives."

The drumming group has found a temporary space to practice as the Temple is still getting cleaned up and inspected. 

Iseri said while the fire did not reach the Temple's altar, smoke and water damaged some of its pieces and displays. He said they are still figuring out what needs to be replaced and what can be covered by insurance.

The Sangha Taiko currently has a GoFundMe up and is hoping to have a free performance for the community as a way of saying "thank you" once they are able to get enough equipment to perform again.

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