State Fire Marshal: Downtown Keota Fire Caused by Arson

By Mark Geary, Reporter

An early morning fire damaged and destroyed several downtown buildings in Keota, Iowa, on Saturday, December 5, 2010. Some of the buildings involved in the blaze were Westendorf Costume Emporium, Bermel Insurance Agency, Bermel Laundromat, All Around Fitness, the old meat locker, and the old lumberyard. Fire crews from North Keokuk County, Washington, Wellman, Sigourney, and Keota fought the fire. (Matt Nelson/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Aaron Hepker

KEOTA, Iowa — The Iowa State Fire Marshal says a fire that burned several buildings in downtown Keota earlier this month was intentionally set. Now, an arson investigation is underway.

Bill Miller, the owner of some of the buildings that burned down, said the sight of all the debris made him feel sick.

So, he has cleared much of it away already, just a few weeks after the fire.

“It’s just shocking to think somebody would do this and I have no idea why. It’s making a lot of people nervous that somebody would deliberately set a fire like that,” Miller said. “I still wake up thinking it was a bad dream.”

There’s no word yet if investigators have any suspects.

Miller plans to rebuild as early as this spring.

Keota Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Detweiler said the fire apparently broke out in a portion of an old lumberyard that contained rental storage units. The fire then spread to a number of nearby businesses. Detweiler said crews were able to save the Westendorf Costume Emporium store, which was left with just smoke and water damage.

But the flames destroyed the Bermel Insurance Agency as well as an adjoining laundromat belonging to the same owner. The All Around Fitness center was destroyed, as was an old meat locker build­ing that was undergoing renovation.

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