MARQUETTE, Iowa - A fast moving fire in the historic section of Marquette has left a gaping hole in the middle of that community's tourism area.
The fire in that Mississippi river community next to McGregor broke out sometime around midnight.
It destroyed the Marquette hardware store, a building that dated to the 1880's. Four upstairs apartments were also destroyed and a detached home next to where the fire started was a total loss.
Mary Pirc, who owns the buildings destroyed by fire, said she had returned home at about 11:30 after working at a nearby casino.
She said she was awakened by one of her tenants frantically knocking on her door.
"My renter came running across the street telling me the store was on fire and he had tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher," Pirc said.
Pirc said she believes the fire started in a back porch area of the historic structure near where electrical service entered the building and wonders if the cause was some sort of electrical problem.
Pirc said her tenant and his fiance went back into the burning structure and made sure everybody got out safely. She believes 7 or 8 people were displaced by the fire and the Red Cross is aiding those fire victims.
Kory Ihde owned the home next door to the hardware store and apartments. Family members said Ihde was in Florida with his family on a visit when the fire broke out. Family members had to call him and tell him the home was a total loss with nothing saved.
Jessica Kann, the homeowner's cousin, said "it'll be hard for Kory and his wife to come back. Right now, I think they're in denial. They've seen pictures sent to them but hopefully, we're all here for them."
In addition to the hardware and general store, the fire also damaged buildings in an area where tourists visit in the summer and fall.
Carolyn Gallagher, director of the McGregor Chamber of Commerce, said the fire will definitely cause problems for tourism later. She also said people have asked for ways to help the fire victims and the community has set up a fund for donations.
Those wanting to help can either visit the central state bank of Marquette or mail donations to the Friends Helping Friends Fund, P.O. BOX 371 McGregor, Iowa 52157. Donations of clothing and other items are also being accepted at Marquette City Hall.