HomeChinese AmericanFire Destroys One of Fresno Chinatown’s Oldest Buildings 

Fire Destroys One of Fresno Chinatown’s Oldest Buildings 

A fire destroyed the roof and interior of a historic building in Fresno’s Chinatown this past week. 

The Bow On Tong in California is at least 90 years old, making it one of Fresno Chinatown’s oldest buildings, according to Battalion Chief Thomas Cope in an article by The Fresno Bee. 

“People sent me photos of it as it was burning,” said Kathy Omachi, head of Fresno Chinatown Preservation Inc. “I couldn’t stop crying.”

Cope added that Fresno City firefighters took a “defensive operational mode,” fighting the fire for around 3-and-a-half hours using 400,000 gallons of water, according to yourcentralvalley.com. 

However, the fire was still particularly difficult to manage as the building had been unoccupied for 30 years, noted Cope. 

“The fire caused the roof to collapse onto the second floor, and it was what we call a pancake collapse,” Cope said. “It trapped burning material underneath and because the building is unsafe for firefighters to enter, we can’t get in there in order to open that up with chainsaws and hand tools and put out the remaining fire.” 

Omachi stated that The Bow On Tong needs around $200,000 in order to rebuild the remains, but Fresno Chinatown Preservation Inc, the non-profit owning the building, cannot afford those costs. 

She noted the building had a central place in the Fresno community and community members failed in saving The Bow On Tong from destruction.

“We all failed,” Omachi said in an article by yourcentralvalley.com. “The older generation failed in planning for the future, the younger generation failed in trying to preserve it, and city and state government failed by not helping to maintain it.”

According to ABC30, the cause of the fire is still under investigation and the Fresno Fire Department determined the building was not structurally stable and will be torn down. 

“It’s heartbreaking. These buildings, they’re not gonna get built again. Once the history is gone, it’s gone,” said Eric Myers, one of the organizers for the Chinese New Year Parade set, as reported by yourcentralvalley.com. “And if you look around, Chinatown is nothing compared to what it used to be.”

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