Instead of running from a fire, they ran towards it.
Mr Koh Wee Ping was folding joss papers in the main hall of Yu Huang Dian Combined Temple at Jurong West Street 76 yesterday when he saw black smoke billowing out from the basement storeroom at 1pm.
The 37-year-old driver said: "We all panicked when we saw the smoke, and thought someone was trapped inside the storeroom.
"We tried to put out the fire with the extinguishers, but there was too much smoke and we had to retreat."
The fire was so strong, the glass windows in the basement storeroom shattered and the whole storeroom was blackened with soot.
Fortunately nobody was trapped in the basement.
A male volunteer in his 50s had to be rescued from the temple by Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel.
He was later taken to National University Hospital for smoke inhalation.
Mr Koh said he reached the temple at 11am and joined three others who were already there, preparing for a Taoist festival which is to take place next Wednesday. They were folding joss paper at the main temple hall above the basement storeroom.
Then they detected the smell of something burning and saw smoke pouring out of the basement.
Mr Koh, who has been volunteering at the temple for 10 years, said the storeroom was used to store incense, joss papers, paper lanterns and figurines.
The paper figurines and lanterns were all left over from Chinese New Year celebrations, and will not be used in the upcoming festival.
As they fought the fire, other volunteers called SCDF. One fire engine, one Red Rhino and two support vehicles rushed to the scene, and the fire was put out by SCDF personnel with the use of two water jets.
An SCDF spokesman said the fire involved joss paper stored in the basement. SCDF is still investigating the cause of fire.
Although the fire had left half the temple without electricity, Mr Koh said the volunteers will try their best to carry on with the festival next Wednesday.
He said: "We have no choice but to try our best despite the damage caused by the fire, because it's quite an important festival."
This article was first published on June 25, 2014.
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