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Airborne band needs instruments for Independence Day

The 82nd Airborne Division band is asking for donations after a fire Friday destroyed their equipment, uniforms and instruments just two days before a scheduled Fourth of July performance.

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The July Fourth show by the 82nd Airborne Division band will go on, despite a warehouse fire that destroyed all their instruments Friday.

Shortly before 5 p.m., a fast-moving fire struck the warehouse, known as A-T building 1541 at Longstreet Road and Keerans Street, that the band used for storage and rehearsal space. People miles away reported seeing smoke from the burning World War II-era building.

"It's a very old building," Fort Bragg Battalion Fire Chief Gerald Auch said. There's "a lot of heavy timber inside, so it was well involved before we got here."

No one was injured. Investigators were to examine the scene Saturday to try to determine the cause of the fire.

The band lost more than $1 million worth of instruments, uniforms, sheet music and other equipment two days before its Independence Day concert.

The situation is "really tragic" for the band members, who had recently returned from Afghanistan and were getting ready for that concert, Fort Bragg spokesman Col. Kevin Arata said.

"This is something they've been practicing for months to do," Arata said. "It's something they do every year."

The concert is a popular community tradition that culminates with fireworks the playing of the 1812 Overture, he said. And after a public plea for loans of instruments, the community is responding.

So far, three schools, including Cape Fear High School, have offered to loan instruments to the 82nd Airborne band. The instruments will be delivered to the post early Saturday, and band members will have a chance to rehearse with them.

"Forty thousand, 50,000 people are going to be here, and the concert ... is the culmination of the whole event," Arata said. "So, how do you make that work? How do you make that better?

"And now, the community is helping us do that," he said.

The band needs brass, woodwind and percussion instruments for 60 band members. Anyone with instruments to loan can e-mail the bandmaster, Warrant Officer Russ Houser, at russ.houser@us.army.mil.



Bryan Mims, Reporter
Ken Smith, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Mark Simpson, Photographer
Jodi Leese Glusco, Web Editor
Anne Johnson, Web Editor

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