Fire destroys partially constructed Islamic Center of Lake Travis


Highlights

The Islamic Center of Lake Travis was set to be completed in a few months.

The Travis County fire marshal is investigating the fire, which happened in Austin’s coldest night in 6 years.

About 50 people decided to create the Islamic center after coming together to help Steiner Ranch fire victims.

A fire early Saturday completely burned down a building that had been under construction by the Islamic Center of Lake Travis and was just a few months away from completion.

Lake Travis Fire and Rescue received a call at about 3:30 a.m. about a fire in the 4700 block of Doss Road in Lake Travis’ Hudson Bend area, according to a news release. When firefighters arrived, the three-story building was fully engulfed in flames.

The Travis County fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire. No injuries were reported.

Islamic Center of Lake Travis board member Shakeel Rashed said all that remains of the building is the concrete foundation.

“We are shocked, and it’s a bit of surprise because we were not expecting something like this,” Rashed said. “Something that we worked so hard for, seeing that in a sad state is not easy.”

Rashed emphasized that the group didn’t want to speculate on the fire’s cause until the investigation is complete. Neither the electrical system nor gas connections had been installed yet, he said, but “it could possibly be anything,” even someone looking for shelter who might have started a fire for warmth on a night that was Austin’s coldest in six years.

As far as whether it could have been a religiously motivated crime, Rashed said: “We really, really hope and believe that it’s not that.”

The organization had cameras installed inside and outside the building, which the fire marshal will be reviewing, he added.

Ironically, Rashed said, it was a fire that had originally brought together the members of the Islamic Center of Lake Travis after they helped raise funds for victims of the 2011 Steiner Ranch wildfire. That involvement led him and about 50 other community members to realize that there was a sizable Muslim community and a need for an Islamic center in the area.

“We are very active within the overall community here … and it’s sad to see this, but this (fire) doesn’t take anything away from that,” Rashed said.

The group has been meeting in various other places in the meantime and is most active during Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. It also runs a Sunday school program for children.

The organization definitely plans to rebuild so long as that is still what the community wants, Rashed said. About four years ago, members raised about $500,000 for the new center, and more than $250,000 of that went toward the construction, he said. The group will need to again raise money to start anew on the building.

“First we want to know what happened here, and we will work with the Travis County department to figure out how to best secure this place for the future and everything else,” Rashed said, “but we do want our community to have a center in this area.”



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