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VFW Hall on Hatch Road gutted by fire
The home of approximately 550 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter 3199 went up in flames early Saturday morning in South Modesto.

A 4 a.m. fire ripped through the facility on Hatch Road west of Carpenter Road, destroying the building and all its contents. The fire was so intense that it cracked the block walls of the structure, which date back to the mid-1950s.

Firefighters from Burbank-Paradise fire station battled the blaze, which was fully involved by the time they arrived. Flames rose some 30 feet into the air and scorched the trees near the building.

"We are going to rebuild," said VFW temporary quarter master Cooper Jackson. "We'll have to knock it all down and rebuild."

The structure was insured, said Jackson.

Investigators have not declared the cause but believe that the fire started in the southeast corner of the building. Arson is not suspected.

Memorabilia accumulated over the years relating to the VFW and its past members was all lost. Some of the items burned were helmets dating back to World War I, pistol belts, ceremonial rifles, service flags and photographs. Scorched metal tables and chairs were heaped in a pile on the lawn on Monday afternoon.

The VFW hall was about 30 feet by 50 feet and included three rooms, two restrooms, and a full service kitchen.

The post has members all over the Modesto-Ceres area, said Jackson. A special emergency meeting of the post will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at the site to discuss a "battle plan" to rebuild, he said.

One item to be discussed is where to meet until a replacement structure is completed in a year to 18 months, Jackson noted.