The recitations of Bumdey finished at 3:30 pm and half-an-hour later, it was dinner time. The monks went to gather their plates when all of a sudden; they heard the Lam Neten shout ‘Fire!’
No sooner had they reached the dzong, the hunt for the fire was on.
The 150 monks in the fortress scuttled in directions for the fire’s origin.
“We found out it was from the census office,” said a monk, Kinga Penjor. His friends broke the door open only to face a backdraft of enclosed inferno.
“We hoped to save the Utse (central tower) but we couldn’t,” he said.
“Our Lam Neten fainted twice. He ran up and down hoping to save whatever he could,” said another monk. The monks are also trained in fire fighting.
Unfortunately, the nozzle of the pipe broke and water finished. The only thing they could do was escape.
The monks tied the prayer books with a rope and started passing the rope through a toilet window. The relics were thrown in metal boxes to the cacti ground.
“We wanted to break the toilet but we couldn’t as it was cemented,” said Kinga Penjor.
So the only escape route that remained was the toilet window. Around 20 monks made it to safety by climbing down the toilet window from the rope.
The Dzongda was running and saving whatever he could, said one of the monks.
An 83-year-old Kunzang Wangdi from Pemagatshel said he watched the events unfold with disbelief. “The fire blocked the only entrance and there was no water,” he said.
Kinley Tshering said “The wind was not as strong as it used to be that day and I thought everything won’t burn down”.
Another resident said the fire fighting team couldn’t put out the raging inferno in time as they couldn’t enter the Dzong. “The fire that started happened near the entry which was next to the road. Why couldn’t they contain the fire from that side (the entry),” he said.
He added that if there were more entry and exit points, that could have helped.
“All Dzongs have their significance and this Dzong has a very different historical significance,” said Lyonpo Dorji Wangdi. He said “We must move forward to do everything to reconstruct the Dzong to its former glory”.
Lyonpo Zangley Dukpa said, “It is a priceless treasure which we are losing”.
He said mayge this could be an indication of a complete renovation of the Dzong.