Firefighters from several communities are on the scene of a huge fire in downtown Vinton. The Michael & Dowd furniture store caught fire and has sustained major damage.

Vinton firefighters, using their aerial truck, are spraying the building from above in an effort to keep flames from spreading to other buildings. Firefighters from Urbana-Polk Township and Garrison also spent hours at the scene.

Despite the valiant efforts and a continuous flow of water from the VFD aerial truck, flames and smoke continued to move toward Clingman Pharmacy, as well as Benton County Title and the Fischer law offices. Volunteers worked late into the night, removing what they could from buildings, in case firefighters could not protect them from smoke or flame.

Spectators, including the owners and workers affected, watched as the smoke and flames slowly spread from one building to the next.

“Fire has reached Bob’s office,” Linda Fischer wrote at around midnight, as the flames began attacking the Fischer building, and smoke poured out of an upstairs window. Witnesses also reported seeing the collapse of a rear wall and the second floors of one of the structures.

By 1 a.m. the flames appeared to be passing the roof of the Fischer building and heading toward the Benton Co. Title structure.

Area residents shared photos on social media showing flames shooting from windows facing both 1st Avenue and 4th Street before firefighters arrrived.

Despite the efforts of dozens of firefighters from several communities, flames were still seen rising above the building at 11:30 p.m., hours after the fire was first reported.

Beckie Hobbs, who lives across the street from the store on First Avenue, described the beginning of the fire.
“I heard a couple loud bangs, then a LOT of glass breaking. I thought someone was breaking bottles or something. I went downstairs to look and there were flames, smoke, and windows busting out everywhere,” said Hobbs.
The fire was still going at 10:30 p.m., she said.
Even at midnight, flames continued to be visible from throughout Vinton.

The store was founded in 1936 as Dowd Appliance. In 1944, it became Michael’s when L.A. Michael became part of the family.

It was primarily a Maytag and Frigidaire appliance dealer with Magnavox electronics added during the early years of color television. The store also began selling Armstrong vinyl floors during this same decade.

In 1959, Ron and Kay Dowd joined the firm with the acquisition of a furniture and carpet business. The entire operation was united and moved to the present location in 1964. 

Mount Auburn Mayor Jeffrey Whitson worked their for 5 years; his father, Dave, had worked there for four decades.

“That’s a sad scene,” said Whitson. “Ron, Kay, Lisa, Mark and Dave, they’re like family to us.”

Firefighters have been trying to keep the flames from spreading to other buildings, including Clingman Pharmacy. Flames had spread to the roof of Clingman’s shortly after 9 p.m. The pharmacy of Clingman will be operating out of LaGrange Pharmacy beginning on Friday.

See more photos HERE.