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Historic building gutted

Firefighters battle blaze well into Wednesday night

February 9, 2012
BY DAVID ALEXANDER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

A massive blaze all but consumed the historic three-story building that was home to the La Nortenita Hispanic Grocery store Tuesday night.

Marshalltown Fire Chief Steve Edwards said it took the Marshalltown Fire Department more than five hours to get the fire at 135 E. Main St. under control. As of Wednesday evening, firefighters were still "putting out hot spots," Edwards said.

"It might be another day," Deputy Fire Chief Scott Johnson said Wednesday evening.

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The call came in between 11 and 11:30 p.m., Edwards said, reported as a dumpster fire. Upon arrival, however firefighters determined that the fire was not actually a dumpster fire, but had originated on the lower level of the building.

A family that lived in an apartment in the building evacuated safely and is being assisted by the Iowa Rivers chapter of the American Red Cross.

Tuesday's fire comes on the heels of two serious garage fires and a handful of intentionally set rubbish fires - all in the downtown area - beginning in early January.

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The Marshalltown Fire Department responded to a fire at a historic three-story building, 135 E. Main St. at approximately 11:15 p.m. Tuesday night. The fire originated in the lower level, which housed the La Nortenita Hispanic grocery store.

Johnson said no cause had been determined as of Wednesday evening, and he declined to comment on rumors that there had been other, smaller fires in the area.

The building, also known by its historic name: The New England Store Building, was built in 1891 and has seen many renovations and remodels in its 121 years, said Tina Shapley, director of the Marshalltown Central Business District.

Businesses adjacent to the shop suffered minimal smoke and water damage and should only be closed for a few days, Shapley said.

"This is a significant building contributing to our historic district," she said. "It had a lot of potential ... It's a big hit for downtown."

In the wake of the fire, Shapley said the Central Business District is already exploring options to help continue to further downtown growth.

Charles Fairall and Ed Hughs of F & H Properties Corp. own the building, and Johnson said their claims adjusters were on their way to scene as of Wednesday evening. He said bowing in the building's front has worsened, but he doesn't believe the building will collapse.

Road closings along Main Street between First and Second Avenues could continue throughout Thursday, Johnson said.



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