ATF joins VFW fire investigation

Firefighters battle the fire at the Front Royal VFW Post 1860 on July 11. Rich Cooley/Daily file

FRONT ROYAL – Almost five months after fire destroyed VFW Post 1860, the cause of the fire remains undetermined and still under investigation.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives has joined the Front Royal Police Department and Warren County Fire and Rescue Services in the investigation.

Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico said Tuesday the investigation, which has enlisted two electrical engineers, is making progress.

“We’re getting closer to releasing the cause of the fire,” Maiatico said.

Authorities have said someone reported a trash can fire around the building on July 11, the day firefighters were dispatched to the scene. The fire swallowed the walls, ceiling, attic and roof before the entire structure fell in a heap of debris that lingers to this day.

In the meantime, Post 1860 is forging ahead with plans that include a new, smaller building on the same site as the former structure at 1847 N. Royal Ave.

Post commander Chuck Midkiff said he is optimistic that rebuilding will begin “any day” and the new post headquarters will be open by middle to late summer.

“We’re definitely going to build back, yes,” Midkiff said. “It won’t be nowhere what it was. We can’t afford that.”

Fire department officials estimated the loss from the July 11 fire at as much as $500,000. Parts of the old building were constructed in pre-Civil War days.

Fire insurance and donations will pay the costs of rebuilding. Midkiff said the new building will cover roughly the same ground as the old one, but will be one story instead of two.

The post’s mailbox at 1847 N. Royal Ave. survived the fire and remains the designated address for people to send donations to help in the rebuilding. Midkiff said he expects work to begin when rubble is cleared from the site.

“Any day now they’re supposed to start cleaning it up,” Midkiff said. “We’re looking forward to that.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or