116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
One of the biggest and most costly fires in Cedar Rapids history happened May 22, 1964, at Tip Top Distributing Co., 1211 Ninth St. SW..
Sparks blown under the building ignited its wooden framework. Flames burst through the warehouse’s floor around 1:30 p.m., and employee Dennis Meyer alerted his co-workers to the fire.
Fire Chief Jesse Hunter called in 90 percent of the department’s firefighters. At one point, 100 firefighters and nine trucks were pumping water onto the burning building. But the one-story warehouse was past the point of saving.
Items stored in and around the building were highly flammable and included oil drums, rubber tires, mastic cement (an adhesive) and Penick & Ford oil tank cars.
In addition, a 30,000-gallon propane fuel tank sat 150 feet away in the Great Plains Gas Propane Corp. yard. Due to the risk of explosion, police set up barricades to keep people off nearby streets.
Damage was estimated at $3 million — about $28 million in today’s dollars.
"The heartbreaking thing about this fire is that it could have been limited to $100 damage if the building had had a sprinkler control system," the fire chief told The Gazette.
Tara Templeman is curator at The History Center. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org