Investigators unsure what started fire in Keota

Fire in Keota. (Matt Nelson)
Fire in Keota. (Matt Nelson)

KEOTA - A swiftmoving fire destroyed or damaged five buildings in the Keokuk County community of Keota early Saturday.

The fire started sometime before dawn on West Broadway Street. Firefighters remained on the scene to put out hot spots throughout the day.

Keota Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Detweiler said the fire apparently broke out in a portion of an old lumberyard that contained rental storage units. The fire then spread to a number of nearby businesses. Detweiler said crews were able to save the Westendorf Costume Emporium store, which was left with just smoke and water damage. But the flames destroyed the Bermel Insurance Agency as well as an adjoining laundromat belonging to the same owner. The All Around Fitness center was destroyed, as was an old meat locker build­ing that was undergoing renovation.

Fire observer Tootie White said it was depressing to watch a losing effort as flames jumped from one structure to another.

'(The fire) went on around the back and then the exercise building and it caught the building next door,' White said.

Detweiler said no cause has been determined, but because the blaze appeared to start in one of the rental storage units at the old lumberyard, investigators will check to see if the fire was set deliberately. Detweiler said it's too early to call anything suspicious.

The Iowa Fire Marshal's office will help with the investigation.

Detweiler said teens driving around town early in the morning spotted the fire and called emergency responders.

Sue McDonald said it was hard to watch the buildings burn for personal reasons.

'I lost my house to a fire a year and a half ago.

So this was hard for me.

I've lived here my whole life and it's tough to see these buildings going up,' McDonald said.

No one was inside any of the businesses at the time of the fire and no one was hurt fighting the blaze.


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