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Fire Destroys Three Businesses in Downtown West Union

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WEST UNION The owners of three West Union businesses were moving items and thinking of the "next move" after an early morning fire swept through their building.

The owners of Miller Insurance, a local Edward Jones office and Shangri La Energy and Body Therapy declined to talk publicly, hours after the flames hit their building in the 100 block of South Vine Street in downtown West Union. However, they spent the late morning Saturday clearing out belongings and papers.

West Union fire chief Roger Gamm said the flames spread quickly after he got the word. Gamm said a pair of people walking by noticed the flames and called in the fire.

"When I got here, it was already engulfed," said Gamm. "The fire was upstairs, then it was downstairs but there were no residents living in the building."

As the building was vacant, Gamm said making sure people got out was not a concern. A fire late Friday night in neighboring Oelwein required evacuating eight apartments above the ground floor of the West Charles Mall in downtown Oelwein.

Walking through the alley to the back of the building in Saturday's fire in West Union, the damage was apparent, especially on the second floor. An industrial-strength fan worked to cool "hot spots" in the charred building.

Jerry Blue, longtime editor of the Fayette County Union and a longtime West Union resident, said on Saturday the fire did burn through in a hurry.

"When I grabbed my camera and made it behind the building, the fire was burning very, very hot and very, very heavy," said Blue.

The burned buildings also connect through to the end of the block, close to the Fayette County Courthouse. Gamm said a firewall did hold and that kept the fire from spreading past the building. Nearby buildings did take on some minor smoke damage, according to Gamm.

"It could have had the potential of taking out a full city block," said Blue.

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