HOPEWELL, Va., -- Members of the Hopewell Moose lodge met for food and fellowship days after a devastating fire destroyed their building.
Monday night, members gathered right outside the charred structure on Western Street to discuss what was next for the more than half-century organization.
The lodge's governor, Brian Carpenter, told the group, "Everyone’s seen the videos, everyone’s seen the photos, everybody’s seen the ashes. That’s a building, and this is Moose."
Firefighters from multiple jurisdictions arrived Thursday morning, just after 4:30 a.m., to find the Hopewell Moose Lodge fully engulfed.
Hopewell Fire Chief, Donny Hunter, said the building is a total loss.
He said the flames and smoke were initially coming from the middle of the building -- which is the kitchen and laundry area.
Jarold Langley, a former lodge governor and member for more than 50 years, described the fire as devastating.
"We will come around. We have a lot of good members. We’ll rebuild and we will be back a part of the community again," Langley stated.
Carpenter stood by the American flag that firefighters saved during the blaze. Cell phone video of the act has been shared nationwide and reported by national news outlets.
Hopewell Fire Marshall Capt. Heather Marks said they don't believe the fire was suspicious or the act of an arsonist. The cause is still under investigation.
"When I got here it was so engulfed in flames that you couldn’t even really figure where it started," Hopewell Moose Lodge Treasurer Don Readshaw said. "It’s a feeling of futility because there’s nothing you can do."
"It's all gone. Just burnt wood," added lodge administrator Brad Ozmore. "It was gut-wrenching and then it was sad because there's a lot of memories and a lot of ties to the community.”
Hopewell Firefighters, with the assistance of Prince George and Fort Lee fire crews, helped battled the blaze.
BY BRENDAN KING