The smell of smoke was still in the air as cleanup crews continued their work Wednesday at Villa Park VFW Post 2801 on St. Charles Road. An .
The building was flooded with water used to put out the blaze, and crews were at the scene pumping it out. Windows that had been broken by firefighters to allow smoke to escape had been boarded up, and a post member was standing by to make sure no one entered the building.
VFW Men's Auxillairy Chaplain Terry Mullen and Post Commander Dennis Geiseman were at the scene talking with post members as they came and went.
"Well, buildings are replaceable, people aren't," Geiseman said. "There were 10 people overall (hospitalized), six have been released and the four that are still in the hospital are my staff. They did a wonderful job in getting everyone out of the building and they were the last ones to leave the building."
The fire broke out in the basement. Those most seriously injured made it to the top of the basement stairs when the explosion happened.
Geiseman said he had no idea how much it will cost to repair the post.
"We're waiting for the insurance company to come tomorrow and we'll do an evaluation at that time," he said.
He estimated it will be 60 to 90 days before the post will re-open. He didn't speak to the specifics of the damage.
"Let's just put it this way, it has its problems," he said.
Later Wednesday, Geiseman issued a prepared statement:
"I ask you to join us in offering our thoughts and prayers for those injured in the fire that occurred at our post last evening, May 29. Ten people were injured and transported to local area hospitals. The four that remain hospitalized today are all post members who bravely and calmly followed protocol to ensure the evacuation of the estimated 70 people in the building, many of whom were senior citizens. Their prompt action undeniably saved lives. We are very proud of them and wish them all a swift recovery."
Geiseman went on to thank all the fire and police personnel, whose quick action saved lives.
"Thank you for the care to our injured and minimizing the damage to our beloved post," he said.
VFW Post 2801 is one of the largest and most active posts in Illinois and the country, Geiseman said.
"Today we are re-dedicated to continue our efforts to assist veterans in spite of this event," he said.
A relief fund has been established to accept donations. Anyone who would like to help can donate to VFW Post 2801 Relief Fund, ℅ West Suburban Bank, 40 E. St. Charles Road, Villa Park, IL 60181.