Fire destroyed three businesses but the signs over the doors of Michael & Dowd and the Fischer law office remained, although damaged and ice-covered, Friday morning.

Acrid smoke continued billowing from the buildings at the SE corner of the intersection of Vinton’s 1st Avenue and Fourth Street today, following a night in which firefighters from several area departments worked all night and into the next day trying to prevent the fire from spreading. By sunrise, it was clear that three business buildings — the Michael & Dowd furniture store, Clingman Pharmacy and the Fischer law offices — had been virtually destroyed by the fire.

Winds from the north and east pushed the smoke and odor south and west; people throughout the city reported smelling smoke in their homes.

Employees of Benton County Title, adjacent to Fischer’s office, say that while their building had some smoke, it appeared the efforts of the firefighters had saved that structure. Many other businesses nearby also reported heavy smoke. Across the alley to the south of the furniture store, the McClure Financial Services offices sustained reported smoke and water damage, but was not reached by the flames. Smoke was also reported in the Ron-Da-Voo, where police had evacuated the business when the fire began Thursday evening, telling the patrons about the fire nearby.

Standing outside with firefighters on Friday morning, Fire Chief Charlie Garwood, in his second month as chief, said firefighters have not determined the cause of the blaze, and probably never will.

FAA-licensed drone pilots wearing jackets identifying them as members of the USA Today network were among the media who lined the street. The drone was filming video and photos for the Des Moines Register, said one of the pilots.

Benton County Recorder Lexa Speidel and her staff worked on Friday with several large piles of files from Benton County Title covering the floor and tables of her office, as well as the courthouse hallway outside her door. Speidel said many volunteers, including a couple of area residents who offered use of their trucks, formed a line to pass files from Benton County Title to the vehicles, and then from the vehicles to her office.

Clay McBride, whose wife, Melissa, operates Premier Appraisal in the second floor of the Benton County Title building, described the effort of many to help.

“We were allowed into Benton County Title (main floor),” said McBride. “With the help of several dozen volunteers and firefighters, we cleared most everything out. We were escorted upstairs for one trip to grab what we could from Chuck Juhl’s office, several of Donna Beggs’s paintings, and what we could hold from Premier Appraisals. The smoke was horrible.”

It was a helpless feeling, he said,  to watch countless gallons of water from multiple fire hoses slowly move east.

“When they penetrated through the middle, upstairs window of Benton County Title and went in with a fire hose, we didn’t expect to see any portion of the block still standing this morning,” said McBride. “Thank God nobody was hurt and God bless the brave firefighters for their efforts (in very cold conditions). We are sad for Fischer’s, Clingman’s, and Michael & Dowd’s.

Clingman Pharmacy set up in La Grange building

Signs on the window of La Grange Pharmacy indicated that customers who normally fill prescriptions at Clingman can do so for the time being at La Grange Pharmacy, where Jon Clingman and his staff are working alongside the La Grange crew. A sign, however, asks that customers only order prescriptions for immediate needs.

Fischer Law Office to set up temporary office

John Fischer said the Fischer law office will be setting up in a temporary office on Monday. Law clients may still call the same office number, 319-472-2353, or his cell phone at 319-361-0724. The Fischers are also interested if anyone knows of potential office space.

See our photo album containing photos we took as well as those shared by many area residents, HERE.