Safety issues threaten closure of Richmond mosque

A mosque at the old Kaiser Field Hospital in Richmond is a place of worship for many, but the fire marshal says the building is a fire hazard with structural issues.
January 10, 2014 5:45:16 PM PST
The city of Richmond is threatening to close down a mosque citing safety reasons. It is a place of worship for many, but the fire marshal says the building is a fire hazard with structural issues.

The issue is creating a lot of tension in Richmond. "Where is our compassion to the house of prayer?" asks Richmond's vice mayor, Corky Booze.

Booze has made saving the mosque his crusade. It's located in the old Kaiser Field Hospital on Cutting Boulevard. It's a WWII-era building. The vice mayor claims the National Park Service wants to buy the building to make it part of the historic Kaiser shipyards.

Many city officials thought it was vacant. On December 31, Richmond Fire Marshal Terry Harris was in the neighborhood and stopped by to take a look. He said that what should have been a 15-minute visit, turned into a two hour eye-opening inspection.

"About 70 percent of the building had no sheetrock, whereas sheetrock is for stopping the spread of fire, There was no fire blocks. There was no insulation. There was no heat. There was cooking appliances in the hallway," Harris said.

And, Harris said that all the fire exits were chained and caged.

On Thursday, the fire marshal placed a "Stop Work" placard outside the building because construction was also going on inside -- without any kind of city permit. ABC7 News was not allowed inside the building to look around, but did talk to leaders of the mosque seen leaving City Hall after a meeting with the city manager.

Asked if he thought it was unfair that they were asking them to leave, one man said, "Well, no comment on this. We're working with them very closely." Asked if the building was unsafe, he responded, "It's safe. It's absolutely safe."

"It hurts me to have to remove someone from their place of worship but I know in the end, they're going to be alive," Harris told ABC7 News,

Sometime early next week, the fire marshal will order them to close but the vice mayor wants to avoid that. He has put the matter of the mosque on the city council's agenda for this Tuesday.


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