The blaze at the Islamic Center of Eastside Wednesday afternoon comes after a man set fire to the mosque in January 2017.
For the second time in about 14 months, fire has engulfed Bellevue’s Islamic Center of Eastside.
An investigation to determine the fire’s cause is under way. No one was injured, but it further damaged to the two-story, wooden mosque in the Lake Hills neighborhood that a man set on fire last year.
The building had been vacant since the arson with a gate and other security, Bellevue Fire Department Lt. Brian Gomez said. There was no indication of construction.
The fire had swallowed a large portion of the mosque when firefighters first arrived shortly before 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, he said. They took down the big flames and then secured the building for a safe entry.
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About 30 minutes later, Gomez reported the blaze under control. Bellevue police helped secure the area in the 14700 block of Main Street.
“We made entry, made sure little hot spots were out; we did a search,” Gomez said, describing firefighters’ safety assessment of the structure before investigators go in next.
That team, which will determine if the fire was accidental, was preparing to enter in the evening.
Wednesday’s blaze comes after a homeless man set the mosque on fire in January 2017. Police said there was no indication that fire was a hate crime or related to terrorism. The man, Isaac Wayne Wilson, who was found starting the fire in a parking lot behind the center, pleaded guilty to reckless burning.
“That burned a signification portion of the rear of the building,” Gomez said.
Beyond that, the combination of fire, smoke and water damage in last year’s blaze destroyed the interior, said Omer Lone, a mosque elder and board member.
“Now it looks like the front is gone too,” Lone said of the building.
He was in a work meeting Wednesday when he received a text message that the old center was once again on fire.
“I was, like, shocked. I didn’t know how to react. I had to pause in the meeting,” said Lone, who works in IT.
Mosque members have been working with the city of Bellevue to get permits to tear down the building, which was insured, and begin construction on a new center, which is expected to cost $1.5 to $2 million, Lone said. They have a goal of reopening by May 2019, in time for Ramadan — a timeline he hopes stays on track despite Wednesday’s blaze.
“The idea was always to build a new building,” Lone said of the center that serves about 100 families, most of whom live within walking distance. “The question in the minds of the people is, ‘If we build, is this (a fire) something we will see again?’”
After last year’s fire, the Islamic Center moved into a leased space in a business park on Northeast 21st Street, a couple miles north of the burned-out mosque.
“It doesn’t cater to all our needs but that’s the only option. You’re talking about a place that’s just rented instead of a proper mosque,” Lone said.
The rented space is harder for some people to get to, especially “when you have to come five times a day to pray,” he said.