HOPEWELL, Va - Hopewell Firefighters, with the assistance of Prince George and Fort Lee fire crews, battled a large fire at the Hopewell Moose Lodge Thursday morning. Hopewell Fire Chief, Donny Hunter, said the building is a total loss.
He said firefighters arrived Thursday morning, just after 4:30 a.m., they found the structure on Western Street fully engulfed. He said the flames and smoke were initially coming from the middle of the building -- which is the kitchen and laundry area.
Members of the Hopewell Moose Lodge watched Thursday morning as the (more than) 60-year-old building burned. Don Readshaw, Treasurer on the Board, was one of them. He said he was getting ready to come to the lodge when he got the call that it was on fire.
"When I got here it was so engulfed in flames that you couldn’t even really figure where it started," said Readshaw. "It’s a feeling of futility because there’s nothing you can do."
For 45 years, he's said he's been a member of the Hopewell Moose Lodge. He said the building held countless memories. Readshaw said he was in shock to see it burn.
"It's kind of like looking at the end of the era. Still kind of overwhelmed," he said.
Chief Hunter has seen his fair share of fires, but says he's seen few this large.
"This is one of my top ten," he said. "We don’t usually lose a whole building. I mean, we pride ourselves in being very aggressive and fighting fire hard.
Chief Hunter said when crews got on scene they made one interior attack.
"It immediately came through the roof once we made an interior attack on the building so we pulled people out," he said.
Chief Hunter said their main goal was to keep everyone safe. He said fire crews continued to battle the fire defensively -- but he said the 95% of the building was destroyed.
Fire crews are still investigating the cause of the fire, but said at this time, they do not suspect foul play.
Readshaw said it will take some time for the board to figure out next steps, but he said they will do what needs to be done to rebuild.
This is a developing story.
Witnesses can send news tips, photos, and video here.