Fire causes extensive damage in central Iowa town’s downtown

AP PHOTO Firefighters battle a 15-alarm fire in the Melcher-Dallas city square on Tuesday night. The major blaze has damaged several buildings in Melcher-Dallas, but fire officials don't suspect July 4th fireworks as the cause. The fire started around 9:30 p.m. and the cause is still under investigation.

MELCHER-DALLAS — A major blaze damaged several buildings in a central Iowa town on Independence Day, but fire officials don’t suspect fireworks as the cause.

The Des Moines Register reports that the fire started late Tuesday in downtown Melcher-Dallas and continued to burn into the early morning hours of Wednesday.

Melcher-Dallas Police Chief Steve Johns said he doesn’t think fireworks caused the fire, but the cause of the blaze hasn’t been determined yet. The State Fire Marshall’s office is expected to begin investigating the cause Wednesday.

“It’s normally a day of celebration,” Johns said. “To have something tragic like this happen, it’s really terrible.”

Melcher-Dallas is a town of about 1,300 people, 40 miles (65 kilometers) southeast of Des Moines. A crowd of about 100 people stood in the town square watching the fire Tuesday night.

No injuries were reported. Buildings housing several businesses and some apartments were badly damaged, and firefighters said the building housing a clothing store, That’s My Bag and More, is a total loss.

David Ernst watched his business and home burn after getting word about the fire around 9 p.m. Tuesday. He and his wife own Ernst Auctioneering Service, and they lived in one of the apartments above the business.

“It’s hard to see it,” Ernst said. “Everything that I own is in it, so we’re losing everything.”