Fraternal organization vows to rebuild from blaze that left only the structure’s perimeter standing
HOPEWELL — Brad Ozmore first thought he was dreaming when he initially was told the Hopewell Moose Family Center 1472 was on fire.
“I didn’t expect what I saw when I arrived,” said Ozmore, the center’s administrator. “I was sad because there are a lot of memories for our members and the community that have participated in events here. We consider them all family.”
The iconic decades-old lodge on Western Street caught fire around 4:30 a.m. Thursday, and by mid-morning, when the final hotspots were being tended to, only the entrance and the walls were left standing.
Captain Heather Myers, the Hopewell fire marshal, said an investigation into the fire origin was continuing, but it does not appear now to be suspicious.
Crews from Prince George and Fort Lee helped Hopewell firefighters battle the blaze, which turned out to be trickier than they thought.
Firefighters made entry but had to leave the building because of the danger. Ladder trucks battled the blaze from above, dumping water onto the building while other crews attacked from the outside perimeter on the ground.
No one was injured in the fire. The building was unoccupied at the time.
“It’s sad,” Myers said as she looked over the building’s charred remnants. “The Moose has a lot of history in the city and a lot of families have many memories here.”
Hopewell Fire Chief Donny Hunter said the blaze appeared to have started in the kitchen or laundry room in the middle of the building. Crews arrived to find fire and heavy smoke enveloping the building.
The building’s architecture made battling the blaze harder.
“This is a bowstring roof which collapses fast and catastrophic,” Hunter said. Coupled with the size of the fire, he said, the decision was made to shift into more of a control mode.
Petersburg Fire Department covered Hopewell’s calls during the fire battle.
The fire definitely has interrupted a busy community schedule for the Hopewell Moose. This weekend, the lodge was going to host a pinewood derby in its ballroom.
“This is bad for the youth and others that will not be able to attend our community outreach programs or other events we had hosted in our facility,” said Don Readshaw, the lodge’s treasurer.
The structure was built in 1954 and certified as a Moose lodge two years later.
“This was our first fire ever,” said Readshaw, an Enon resident who has been a Moose member since 1970. “It’s devastating.”
Despite the immediate bleak outlook, lodge members vow to come back stronger than ever.
“Our hope is to rebuild and to remain a value to the Tri-City Area during this unforeseen transition,” Ozmore said.
Roy Snyder, chairman of the Moose Heart of the Community Committee, said the organization has insurance and a bank account, and they will construct a new structure to replace the decades-old building that has a large ballroom, bar area, kitchen and office spaces.
Troy King, territory manager for Moose International, said his foremost task now is to “assist the lodge as they look to rebuild a state-of-the-art premier Moose lodge for all to emulate.”
“One thing is for sure — the HMFC is not going away,” Readshaw said. “We’re here to stay.”
By Kristi K. Higgins and Adrienne Wallace, Staff Writers
Kristi K. Higgins is a staff writer for The Progress-Index. Adrienne Wallace is the editor of the Hopewell Herald & Prince George Post, a sister publication of The Progress-Index.