Firefighters were called to Don's Body Shop on Flindt Drive in Storm Lake around 3 p.m Tuesday, where they found heavy black smoke pouring from the north end of the 7,000 square-feet building, with some flames visible through the roof areas. The entire building was filled with thick smoke.
Occupants of the business escaped without injuries. Bystanders reported hearing a series of popping noises before seeing the flames. The building, owned by Don McVinua of Storm Lake, sustained heavy damage, but a loss estimate was unavailable at midweek. The owner, who could only watch the fire from the street in front of the business, reported that there was no insurance on the building.
Firefighters attacked the flame from inside and outside, using the department's aerial truck to direct water over the roof area. Merrill Manufacturing, adjacent, was evacuated, but firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to that building. The firefighters were on the scene for about four hours, in near-freezing, windy conditions.
There were several unrestored older vehicles stored in the building as well as a wrecker truck, tires and equipment, firefighters said.
"There was paint and waste oil in the building. If it had burned any further than it did, it could have been a much worse situation," Jones said.
Storm Lake firefighters and the Iowa Fire Marshall's office conducted an investigation, and officials believe that the fire started with a trouble light being used as an extension cord for a portable space heater. The light overheated and ignited combustible materials around it.
The south part of Flindt Drive, one of the city's most heavily trafficked roads, was shut down for several hours, including the Tyson area. An ambulance was on scene on standby, as curious residents climbed to a railway overpass to watch the fire. Water from the hoses ran down Flindt Drive and froze in puddles around the scene. City officials were vigilant through the night to ensure that there were no flare-ups.
This blaze was located near where an even more damaging fire happened in December last year at Consumer Supply, which was never rebuilt.
Firefighters were assisted by the police department, paramedics and staff from Mid-American Energy. No injuries were reported by any of the response people on the scene.