Lynchburg, VA - A well-known Lynchburg hobby shop was destroyed by a massive fire Saturday.
Crews from the Lynchburg Fire Department arrived on the scene at the Collectors Lair on Fort Avenue around 4:22 a.m. Saturday and have been there since.
The store was barely visible at times beneath the dark clouds of smoke Saturday morning.
James Lair has owned the hobby center for 25 years. He says he was working late when the fire started.
"As I was getting ready to leave, I smelled smoke and I headed for, it smelled like it was coming from the basement. And I went to the basement, and the door was closed but I could hear a crackling sound," Lair said.
Lair called 911 around 4:20 a.m., but the building was still on fire hours later.
"This was a 'Do Not Enter' building due to the heavy fire load and the way the building is designed," explained Fire Marshal Thomas Mack.
That means firefighters aren't allowed to go inside the building for safety reasons. So they spent hours attacking the blaze from the outside.
Meanwhile, Lair stood around watching it all happen.
"A little bit of a state of shock. You know you've been doing this for 25 years and pretty much it's an everyday thing. So you know all of a sudden it's like, 'Well I guess I don't have anything to do tomorrow,'" Lair said.
Several locals were also in shock, and many stood outside of the caution tape taking pictures and video.
"It's crazy, I mean that's why you see a lot of people stopping by taking pictures and seeing it all. It won't be here no more. Everybody has memories and stuff I'm sure. It's kind of a piece of Lynchburg that's been here a while," said one Lynchburg resident.
"I just came out here to check it out. I used to come up here and buy games sometimes. It was a nice little place, very cheap, very reasonable people," said a customer.
Lair says seeing his friends and customers was reassuring, and he had a message for them:
"Thanks for the 25 years and hopefully we'll get our things back together and be around for 25 more," Lair said.
Lair hopes to open another store in Lynchburg.
Fire officials say the fire is under control, and now crews will work to demolish the entire building as firefighters put out small pockets of fire still left.
They will probably be working through Sunday.