A view from the courthouse, showing the devastation caused by the fire. (Photo by Benton Co. Auditor Hayley Rippel)

Sept. 9, 2005.

June 12-13, 2008.

July 11, 2011.

July 17, 2016.

And now, Feb. 8 will join the dates mentioned above as historic events impacting Vinton, joining, in chronological order:

  • The American Legion Hall Fire, which happened across First Avenue from Thursday’s fire that started in the Michael & Dowd store and spread;
  • The historic, 24.7-foot flood of 2008;
  • The derecho wind storm which brought sustained 130-mph winds to the Vinton area three summers later; and,
  • The tornado that destroyed the Imperial Apartments and other buildings.

The photo above, taken by Benton County Auditor Hayley Rippel this morning, shows the devastation caused by the fire to Michael & Dowd, Clingman Pharmacy, and the Fischer law office building, which were all destroyed by the fire.

“Pray for Vinton and all those affected. Still fighting….we live in a great community!” Rippel wrote as she shared that photo on Facebook.

As building and business owners ponder the future, many area residents are already looking back on memories they made in those buildings on the south side of the 100 block of East 4th Street.

“The fire in downtown Vinton that started last night and is still burning is heartbreaking, for both the loss of historic buildings, and for the business owners and employees,” says Steve Arnold, a retired elementary teacher and long-time ACT 1 actor and director.

“Even though I’m almost two miles from the fire, the smell of smoke outside my house is clear and distinct, I can even smell it inside,” says Arnold.

For years, Arnold and other ACT 1 members would climb the steps above Clingman Pharmacy, where Jon Clingman allowed the group to use space for auditions, rehearsals and storage of props.

“ACT I, our community theatre, lived upstairs over Clingman Pharmacy for almost 15 years.” says Arnold. “Our rehearsals were held in a space that had housed the Knights of Columbus at one time and also the Boddicker School of Music at another. Our costumes were stored in rooms that had once been an apartment and a law office.”

Arnold also observed the weather conditions and acknowledged the efforts of the volunteer firefighters of several communities to brave the elements to fight the fire.

“It was awful for the firefighters to have to take on this fire in the middle of a blizzard,” he said.

And as we did during and after the events listed above, Vinton residents are again coming together, to help each other out, and to begin making plans to rebuild.

“We will get through this. I’ve seen it before,” says Janda Wilden. “I’ve lived here for nine years, and if I know anything about this town, it’s that it embodies all the qualities that people love about small-town life. The community will come together and collectively put our arms around those who are hurting. We will get through this. But, wow, such a devastating loss. I’m thankful for the firefighters who worked in frigid temperatures for multiple hours trying to contain the fire.  As far as I know, no one was physically injured, so I’m very grateful for that.”

The Benton County Salvation Army has already begun helping those affected.

“They are ready to help in anyway and are available anytime today or in the near future,” says LaNette Parker.

To reach the Salvation Army, call Robert Parker at 515-240-5810 or LaNette Parker 319-521-1496.