Two Years After Massive Keota Fire, Arsonist Still On The Loose

By Mark Carlson, Reporter

The area on Broadway Avenue in downtown Keota where a December 2010 fire destroyed several buildings. Photo taken Thursday, October 27, 2011. (Matt Nelson/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Aaron Hepker

Keota, Iowa
41.363901 -91.953786

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KEOTA, Iowa — On December 4, 2010 the face of downtown Keota changed forever. In a matter of early morning hours, a massive fire took out downtown businesses and left community members searching for answers.

“I feel a lot better than I did two years ago today, I know two years ago today I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Bill Miller, who has been a key force behind the rebuilding of downtown Keota. But Miller readily admits there are still many answers he is searching for himself.

Just a couple weeks after the fire the Iowa State Fire Marshal ruled the cause to be arson. In the past two years no one has been charged in the case, which remains open.

“(It’s) very frustrating, very frustrating, but I know things take time,” Miller said. “I’m sure they’re doing the best they can on it.”

This past year Miller, who once owned six of the eight lots most impacted by the fire, watched as contractors completed work on his new building in the once fire damaged area. The two retail/office spaces have already been leased to fitness centers, and storage space in back is full with RV’s and boats from all over the area.

“That was one of the biggest fires,” said Keota fire Chief Ryan Sieren, who served as assistant chief in 2010. “It’s awesome to see them rebuild and make downtown look better.”

An auto mechanic has also built on vacant property within the last year. Miller says he continues to remain optimistic that the arsonist will be brought to justice.

“It’s all you really can do,” he said.
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