Friday, January 25, 2008

Downtown Fire--A Week Ago & Today

A week ago tomorrow, on January 19, at approximately 2:30am, a fire broke out in an upstairs apartment on Main street in the town of Maquoketa. Our town has a population of just a few over 6,000, so it isn't too big. Our Main street business district is 3 city blocks long. The first picture you see here, is a newly renovated building, within the last 5 years, which houses professional businesses, including a Dental office. The building is owned by the dentist and his family. This is not where the fire started, but I just wanted to show you all the buildings involved. This building is called the Main Street Plaza, and the dental office is called 'Smiles On Main.' This building is smack dab in the center of the block. It also received the least damage of them all. Firefighters worked hard to keep the fire from entering this building, because if it had, the whole east side of this center block might have perished.
Next to the Main Street Plaza sat Sue's Hallmark. Sue has had the store since 1980. Sue's, and the Main Street Plaza shared an adjoining wall, so it was difficult to keep the fire from entering this building.
This is all that remained of Sue's when the fire was under control. Sad looking, isn't it?
Next to Sue's Hallmark, going South, was the Breitbach Floor covering store. The fire was believed to have started in an upstairs apartment of this building. Next to Breitbach's, was Jackson County Home Furnishings, and this business actually housed the next building to the south as well. The Jackson County Home Furnishings building, at one time, was the Ben Franklin Store. To the south of the first JCHF's store, for many years, was the JC Penney store. The firefighters had their work cut out for them as the city water supply ran quite low, and water froze in the hoses, in the subfreezing temperatures. Water actually had to be hauled from the river to help. A local concrete company helped, and several FD's tanker trucks passed each other going back and forth to the river for water.
The building on the end, which got significately less fire damage, was the Pickle Barrel Sub Shop, which was scheduled to open soon. The owners had been doing renovations, and it would have opened soon. The condition of this building has not been determined yet, so the future of the Sub shop is questionable at this time too. Maquoketa is already making plans to rebuild, and are questioning the design of this building, versus new construction, so plans are indefinate at this time. This store has housed many businesses, the latest one, before Pickle Barrel Subs, was a Scrap booking store. Before that, it was a book store, and a Men's clothing store. For many years before that though, like for decades, it was a hardware store. I remember going in there about 33 years ago, and it had bins, and bins of hardware, and the side walls were shelves filled with merchandise that went to the ceiling. It had those sliding ladders you see sometimes in huge libraries.
By the end of Saturday night, a week ago, most of the buildings had been knocked down, to control the fire. The back walls are still standing at this time. Fire crews had left the scene early evening, but were called back to contain a couple hot spots. They say there was some coal in the basement of one of the buildings, which kept things hot.
Today, almost one week later, this is how our downtown looks. This is a photo of the front of the buildings on Main street. Notice the huge gap from one building to the next.
This is the back of the buildings taken from behind the stores. All the ice on the lines are gone now, but at one time, it all just looked like scenes from a futuristic movie, like 'Terminator', when wreckage and devastation were present.
If you would like to read all about our fire, and our town, go to and there will be links to view hundreds of photos submitted during this devastating time. Total, we lost 4 buildings, damages to 2, and about 8 businesses were affected. Reports say we had about 27 different fire departments on the scene at one time, and firefighters fought the fire for over 36 hours. God bless the firefighters, and everyone who worked so hard to save our town.


jillquilts said...

Amazing! And not in a good way!

Was anyone hurt? Was anyone living in the apartment where they think the fire started?

BitnByAQuiltingBug said...

I hope everyone was and is ok. Don't you hate to see history destroyed? It always breaks my heart.

Keep us updated, if you would.

Regina in MI

Cindy (aka Peony the House Elf) said...

What a sad sight. I thought it was such a cute little town when we were there and it's sad to see all those businesses ruined. Something like this affects so many lives. Thank God for firefighters.

Kristie said...

That is such a terrible thing! I hate to hear of fires like that. Hope no one was hurt.

Maureen said...

Michelle...I too hope no one was hurt and that your community overcomes this tragedy. God bless all of you!


Gina said...

I've been reading your emails that you sent . I can't believe what a terrible fire. this must be heartbreaking for your town.

love and hugs xxx

Moneik said...

Thanks for the update and letting us see pictures. Thank god for firefighters and all they do.

Jen said...

Has there been any new news about it? Do they have any idea what started it?

Anonymous said...

that is so sad. I love Maquoketa IA I went there a lot as a child and we made sure that we took our children there too. Everyone should go caving in Maquoketa.

As tragic as your pictures are....and I pray everyone is ok, they brought back fond memories for me.



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