Kansas VFW Post Deemed a Total Loss After Fire

May 8, 2012

A century-old building that housed a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Ellsworth, Kansas, was destroyed by a fire and likely won’t be rebuilt, the post’s commander said.

Firefighters were called to the building on Main Street shortly before 5 a.m. Friday and had it under control by 7:30 a.m. More than 100 flags donated to the post over the years, many of which had been draped over the caskets of war veterans, were lost in the fire, as were a number of photographs and other memorabilia.

“Those are all gone, plus all of the awards we won down through the years,” said post commander Mike Johnson, 67, of rural Lorraine, a Vietnam war veteran.

The Salina Journal reports American flags that were flown in downtown Ellsworth were saved, but veteran-donated flags unfurled at Memoria Cemetery during Memorial Day and Veterans Day were destroyed.

Johnson said he was relieved that nobody was hurt and that adjoining buildings were spared. He said the post should have enough insurance to clean up the site and replace some belongings.

More flags can be purchased, Johnson said, but “they could never have the same meaning as the ones presented to the veterans’ families.”

The cause of the fire was not released Friday by the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s office.

“I talked to (the investigator). He thought it started in the kitchen area, but he didn’t know from what. He was leaning more toward electrical,” Johnson said. “They were going to do some more investigation, but not (Friday).”

He said weapons used for VFW ceremonies were salvaged and will be reconditioned, as will be pieces of health care equipment, such as wheelchairs and walkers, that were loaned out to people.

“We’ll see how good the insurance is when it comes time to pay. It will pretty well cover a lot of the contents,” Johnson said. “It will probably cost a lot of money to have the building knocked down.”

The building was used for monthly government commodity distribution and occasionally by a number of organizations throughout the year. Twice-a-month VFW meetings now will be conducted at the American Legion Post 174.

Monday night bingo has been temporarily canceled because the fire destroyed necessary equipment.

“It’ll be a while before we’re back in business,” Johnson said. “We’ll have to see if we continue it or not.”

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