The fire that temporarily shut down the Grant-Reeves VFW Post 7720 in Cornelia has been ruled electrical.
“It started due to an electrical shortage in some wiring near an HVAC [unit] in the basement area,” says Cornelia Fire Marshal Josh Hazle.
Last month’s fire was contained in the basement, but the building sustained heavy smoke damage upstairs. “The Post will be shut down for a couple months while we clean up and rebuild,” says Post Commander Bill Miles.
The fire displaced the building’s caretaker. Billy Rice, a disabled veteran who has lived and worked in the building for twelve years. Rice lived in a downstairs apartment. The Post is now paying for him to stay in a local hotel until the building reopens. The Post is accepting donations to help him. Anyone who wants to contribute should contact the Grant-Reeves VFW Post 7720 through its Facebook page.
The veterans also are planning to hold several Post clean up days in the near future “and can use all the help we can get,” Miles says. They’ll post the dates and times on their Facebook page.
The fire forced the VFW to cancel its Thursday night Bingo game fundraisers for the foreseeable future. Members are working to raise money in other ways to support their programs for veterans and to help cover some of the repair costs.
Currently, they’re selling fireworks at a stand in front of Tractor Supply in Cornelia through July 4th.
A “true save”
People were meeting inside the Post building on VFW Road when the fire broke out just before 7:30 p.m. on the evening of June 16. They called 911 when smoke began filling the building.
When firefighters arrived on the scene, they could see light smoke coming from the front and rear of the structure. They used thermal imaging to locate the small fire in the basement and quickly extinguished the flames.
Firefighters from Cornelia, Demorest, and Lee Arrendale answered the call.
No one was injured in the fire.
“This was a true save of a large commercial building by a team of well trained and skilled firefighters. The seamless team effort of all departments involved made that possible,” Hazle says, extending his gratitude to all those who helped.
Miles praised the Cornelia Fire Department for doing “an outstanding job” in containing the fire. He says VFW members won’t let the fire and COVID-19 stop them. “Our goal is to come back bigger and better than before.”