Gina Mace

CUYAHOGA FALLS: The smell of burned wood hung in the air around Ralph Huff VFW Post 1062 on Tuesday, the day after fire closed the club.

About noon, James “Woody” Woods, Raymond Knoles and other members drove or stopped by the club at 1581 Main St. to assess the damage. They’re awaiting word from the post commander on where they go from here.

Jack Sincere of Carrara, a construction and restoration company on the site to secure the building, said the rear of the post and the second floor took the brunt of the fire. The roof is gone, and the ceiling is collapsing.

The kitchen suffered heavy water damage, as did the front of the building.

“I can’t believe it burned the way it did,” Knoles said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Falls fire Chief Paul Moledor said. There is no damage estimate yet, although Woods said he has heard the building might be a total loss.

He called the fire sad, but said it could be a blessing in disguise.

“Some of the members have been talking about [rebuilding] the back building,” Woods said.

Knoles, a Vietnam veteran and officer of the day, arrived at the club about 2 p.m. Monday and ordered his usual diet cola.

Sometime after 3:30, another member walked through a doorway to the older section of the club and alerted the 15 or 20 members inside that he smelled smoke.

An employee, a few patrons and Knoles searched for the source of the smell. As they looked around the 150-year-old rear section of the post, someone pointed out smoke coming from both sides of an exit sign.

That’s when they realized the fire was inside the walls.

“I said, ‘We’ve got to get out of here,’?” Knoles said.

The first company of firefighters arrived as patrons were evacuating, just two minutes after the 3:45 p.m. call to 911. They found moderate to heavy smoke coming from the first and second floors, and flames in the walls and through the roof of the rear building.

Moledor said a peaked roof built over a flat roof made it difficult for firefighters to get to the fire.

Firefighters from Akron, Bath Township, Fairlawn, Hudson, Munroe Falls, Stow, Tallmadge and Twinsburg helped at the scene, while the Kent and Valley fire departments took over other local emergency calls.

By 10 p.m., the fire was under control.

New auxiliary VFW member Greg Kilroy stopped by Tuesday and asked Woods whether a particular item survived the fire.

“All I want to know is: Did they save my Irish whiskey?” he asked.