STRASBURG — Ricci Troxell had to watch family history go up in flames on Monday.
The building his family has owned on Front Royal Road since the 1930s caught fire Monday afternoon, wiping out memories, collectibles, and one young family’s home.
At around 2 p.m., Strasburg police and the Strasburg Fire Department received calls about a structure fire on Front Royal Road. The old Nash car dealership just outside of town was slowly burning.
Strasburg Police Chief Wayne Sager said a passerby saw the smoke and attempted to get inside to check if anyone was home. Sager said the good Samaritan couldn’t get inside because of the heat but called 911.
Downstairs, Daniel Lefkowitz, 33, was working in his woodshop when he smelled smoke.
“I thought it was something in my space and started looking around for what was on fire,” he said. “Then I saw smoke billowing in the doors.”
When he saw the smoke, Lefkowitz said he tried to grab as many of his tools as he could and ran outside.
He said the roof above his shop was concrete slab and was hopeful it hadn’t burned anything but he said he was concerned about water damage.
Upstairs, the apartment Dan Hooser and his roommate Morgan Stilson live in smoldered.
Hooser said he was meeting someone for lunch downtown. He left, paid his rent, and as he was getting ready to take a bite of food, his phone rang.
“When I left, I went around and made sure all the candles were blown out,” he said. “I remember there were two and I specifically blew them out.”
Fire and rescue officials could not confirm whether the fire started in Hooser’s apartment.
Troxell’s building was many things for many people in town. Hooser and Stilson are expecting a child in 2 1/2 months; Lefkowitz ran his business out of the building; generations of memories, memorabilia and classic cars from Troxell’s past are now buried under the rubble.
Troxell’s grandfather started a Nash car dealership in the 1930s and he bought his share of the building in 1979. In 2015, Troxell said, he and his family refurbished the building, pulling out tables and booths from where a restaurant once stood. They fixed the Nash sign that welcomed people coming into town from Front Royal along Route 55 and moved classic cars into the showroom and basement.
“It was a treasure,” Troxel said. “Especially for the family.”
“It was almost like a family museum, the Nash part,” he added.
Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Fire Marshal David Ferguson said the fire didn’t appear suspicious but he didn’t have much information about where or how it started because he hadn’t been able to start the investigation.
At one point, it appeared crews had the fire contained but trouble with a water line held up the fight, allowing the fire to spread inside the structure, destroying the building.
According to the Shenandoah County GIS, the property is valued at $178,000, not counting what was kept inside.
Ferguson said Hooser and Stilson don’t have renter’s insurance and will be receiving aid from the Red Cross.
Hooser said he has already had an outpouring of support but said anyone interested in helping could email him at email@example.com.