Early morning fire destroys Charles City office and storage building
By Bob Steenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
A structure fire kept firefighters from five departments busy on a cold morning this week as a building on 5th Street in the southwest part of Charles City was a total loss.
The building — the former AgVantage FS building at 1105 5th St. — was currently being used as temporary office space for Chautauqua Guest Homes in front and storage for Quade Construction in the back.
Floyd County dispatch was alerted by a call from a passerby that the building was on fire early Wednesday morning. The Charles City Fire Department along with the Floyd and Colwell departments were initially dispatched, with Charles City trucks arriving at 1:51 a.m.
Curt Teeter, a full-time Charles City professional firefighter, was the incident commander at the scene, and he said the Rockford Fire Department and the Nashua Fire Department were also called in for their water trucks.
“We were hampered by the location of some of the fire hydrants,” Teeter said. “We just laid a bunch of 5-inch large-diameter hose to the fire trucks and we were able to get a water supply set up that way.”
Charles City trucks were supplied off the hydrants and the Floyd fire truck was supplied with water from the other departments’ tankers, he said.
The other challenge was the weather.
“It was 1 degree when we got there,” Teeter said.
The Charles City department was at the fire until returning to the station at 5:30 a.m. It was called back out a couple of times during the day for additional flare-ups.
“The difficulty with a steel roof and siding is when the structure collapses upon itself you’ve got to try to get all the metal off the stuff underneath that’s still on fire,” Teeter said. “It basically covered up the contents that were in the structure and unfortunately we could get some water to them but we couldn’t completely douse them. We ended up having to go back.”
Eventually the property owner got an excavator to pull the steel roof and some of the other metal away, Teeter said. “We were able to get in and do a little more in-depth fire suppression at that time.”
The fire is currently under investigation but being considered accidental, Teeter said. Initially the collapsed structure had been too unsafe to go into to investigate.
The building is listed in county records as being owned by Deb Enterprises LLC, and the registered agent for that company is listed with the Iowa Secretary of State office as Vincent Rottinghaus of Charles City.
The front part of the building had been office space for Chautauqua Guest Homes since last spring.
President and CEO David Ayers said Chautauqua had set up a business office there the first part of April after federal COVID-19 nursing home rules restricted any outside visitors from entering long-term care facilities.
The offices were set up so the organization could conduct business with residents’ family members, process new admissions, conduct interviews and orientation for new employees and provide a place employees could pick up their paychecks, he said.
“I had the three main secretaries housed at that place and I had a desk also. It wasn’t a big operation,” Ayers said, adding that they are now in the process of rebuilding all the paperwork, but that most of it had been backed up.