WHITE HILLS, Ariz. -- Smoke swirled around the American and POW-MIA flags flying over the blackened remains of Rosie's Den.
Most of the building had blown away in a cloud of ash, strewn over the Mojave Desert as if cremated.
Only remnants of the ruffled tin roof remained, soot covered and contorted from the heat, huddled over steel kitchen appliances.
Nearby residents and firefighters filled the parking lot -- 25 miles south of the Hoover Dam on U.S. Highway 93 -- to mourn the loss Friday afternoon.
Rosie's Den, a 74-year-old business and about the only building banking the highway through Mojave's barren belly, was gone. Despite being far from the city, it was a Las Vegas hot spot.
It wasn't unusual to see the parking lot full of cars with Nevada plates, a dinner cook said. Traffic would back into the highway. That's why the state forced Rosie's to install recently a $150,000 turn lane solely for its business in the middle of nowhere. Nevadans, unsatisfied by the gambling offered all over their own state, even in grocery stores, would come here for Powerball lottery tickets, unavailable in Nevada.
For that reason, Rosie's consistently ranks as one of the top lottery ticket sellers in the state despite its remoteness.
"When it was up to $250 million last week, we were getting our asses kicked there was so many people," said the dinner cook, preferring to only be identified by his first name, John.
That won't change, said Randy Larsen, oldest son of 85-year-old owner Rosie Larsen. He already was preparing to offer lottery ticket sales just hours after the fire.
A lottery machine was expected to arrive late Friday afternoon and be installed in a nearby gift shop. But Rosie's, which the family recently had spent thousands on to improve the bar, kitchen and bathrooms, was now just a scorch mark.
"Toast, everything's toast," Larsen said.
But Rosie's won't be buried in its own ashes. With roots running deep, it will resprout.
"We're going to rebuild," Larsen said without hesitation when asked about the family's next move. "She (Rosie) said we're going to rebuild and keep moving. She's 85, but you can't keep her down."
The reason the building was so special is also why it couldn't be saved, said Mike Pettway, battalion chief of Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District, one of three area agencies to respond.
"Built in 1933. It's all wood," he said. "By the time we got there, there's nothing we could do."
Pettway was one of the first to arrive after a driver called in the fire at about 3:30 a.m. Friday. But all firefighters could do was watch.
Firefighters waited all day for the fire to finish, keeping it away from propane tanks behind the building. Watch was also all the Larsen family and about eight employees, who lived in the trailer park behind the business, could do since early morning.
The same question was on everyone's mind. How did it start?
Randy Osborn, poked and prodded at the rubble Friday afternoon, looking for the source. The fire marshal for the Golden Valley Fire Department found the "room of origin" -- the center of the basement. He could tell because the two I-beams holding the ground floor up were both curved inward, leaning toward each other and the location of the intense heat. Osborn said he wouldn't be able to climb down until Friday night.
"The fire started 10 hours ago and is done here, but it's still 500 to 600 degrees in there," he said overlooking the basement, his face flushed with the residual heat. "It could be electrical, but I have no idea yet."
John, the cook, paced back and forth in the trailer park, separate from everyone else. He sucked in puffs of cigarette smoke while looking up at the flags, which surprisingly survived the incineration because the fire burned sideways. The flames charred a palm tree 30 feet to the west of the building.
"The wind was blowing at a Superman pace last night," John said.
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@review journal.com or 702-383-0279.