LOWELL -- The five members of the Vuong-Sak family who died in the July 10 fire in a Branch Street apartment building were laid to rest Saturday after a community service that drew Cambodians from far beyond Lowell to pay respects.

Even those who didn't know the victims still felt an obligation to show their support, prominent members of the city's Cambodian population said at the Glory Buddhist Temple.

"Everyone's been pulling together and helping," said Bopha Malone, president of Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association, which is assisting with fundraising and gathering donated items like food and clothing. "You don't have to know them personally."

Dozens gathered in the Glory Buddhist Temple on Hale Street, with five caskets -- for Torn Sak, Ellen Vuong and three of their five children, Anthony, Ryan and Sayuri -- lined in a row in a back corner. People came and went, helped to prepare food and prayed. It was more of simply a community gathering than a memorial service, solemn but with few tears -- a Cambodian community uniting after five of their own were taken in the state's deadliest fire in two decades.

"The turnout is tremendous," said Paul Ratha Yem, who is active in the Cambodian community. Cambodians from other nearby cities visited to pay their respects as well, he said. He recalled the Khmer Rouge regime and genocide in the 1970s, and said all Cambodians of that age in the United States remain affected by it.


"We all went through the killing fields," he said, "and we're here now."

Fire officials have ruled the fire was accidental, the result of an accidental electrical fire that started in a concealed space between the second and third floors and spread quickly as it went undetected. As the fire grew, it disabled some alarms in the building, officials said.

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