Reporter: Lauren Compton l Videographer: Jemon Haskins
Altavista, VA- A raging fire has put a stop to business at a First National Bank branch in Altavista. The building is a total loss after Tuesday's fire. But even with all the damage, bank officials were able to save a lot of valuable items.
The bank president credits the employees for their quick action. He says they did everything they could to secure the bank deposits and money when the fire started.
The First National Bank building now looks gutted, shot at and broken. For many, it is hard to believe it was once a fully operational bank.
"It really broke my heart, because I've been banking with them for 51 years, and it's a wonderful bank," said Rosa Saunders, a longtime customer.
It was so surreal for long-time customer, and Altavista resident Mary Crabtree took pictures so she could have proof.
"I never heard of a bank catching on fire, and burning up in my life," said Crabtree.
Investigators say a mulch fire outside sparked the blaze, and it wasn't long before it swallowed the bank. It's hard to believe any paper documents or cash could withstand the flames.
"We've been surprised at the cash that has been removed from the vault. It is intact and secured," said Todd Hall, president and CEO of the First National Bank.
The fire-resistant vault helped and Senior Vice President Buck Sydnor credits the employees for their quick action during the fire.
"They were able to take their money and secure it in the vault. They secured their work: the checks that they had cashed, and checks were deposited and secured in the vault," said Sydnor.
The safe-deposit boxes were saved as well. The bank will move them to the downtown Altavista branch.
"Then we'll start making the calls to them to come down, and hopefully we'll get them relocated in a safe deposit box in one of our other locations," said Hall.
Until then, Altavista Police will be watching the bank. The Bank president says while the building is gone, business will still go on.
"Our customers will not experience any break in accessibility in funds or services or anything like that," said Hall.
There are seven other First National Bank locations customers can use, including the branch bank in downtown Altavista. The bank is still considering using a temporary space in the Town and Country Center. And the bank presidents say the employees are now working at other locations.