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Two-alarm fire destroys Roanoke museum

Crews respond to an overnight fire at the Commonwealth Coach and Trolley Museum

ROANOKE,Va. – Roanoke City firefighters are on the scene of a two-alarm fire at the Commonwealth Coach and Trolley Museum.

The fire was first called in just after midnight on Wednesday. Flames could be seen coming out of the top of the brick building.

Roanoke firefighters respond to a two-alarm fire at the Commonwealth Coach and Trolley Museum

Investigators on scene say the fire happened in a garage that houses some of the old busses. The building is considered a complete loss as well as the busses that were being stored inside.

Commonwealth Coach and Trolley is under the umbrella of the Virginia Museum of Transpotation.

"Our damage estimates for our museum property are unknown but we believe we've lost about 15 busses, half of our collection. We lost all but three of our historic restored coaches. We do not yet know the cause. The museum did not have insurance on the building or the busses. However we do not own the building," said Shayne Dwyer, with the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

Commonwealth Coach and Trolley collects, repairs and operates historic coaches and busses with significant historical value to the entire state. 

"We are currently in the process of moving busses that were not heavily damaged off the property as to make room for cleanup and knocking down unsound building walls. The walls have to be knocked down before investigators can get in," said Dwyer.

Campbell Avenue has been closed to traffic overnight as crews work to put out the fire.

At this point, there's no word on exact damage estimates. Investigators are also working to determine what sparked the fire.

The museum was first formed in 1999 when the Virginia Museum of Transportation decided to de-access its fleet of transit coaches which had been collected throughout the years.

Busses and shuttles through the museum are used for non-profit organizations and public events. Examples include shuttles for Virginia's Explore Park, Center in the Square, the Rescue Mission and the National D Day Memorial. The shuttles carry between 6,000 to 7,000 people per year.

Those wishing to assist can donate via www.vmt.org