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Chief: Vinton Fire on Thursday Night Appears ‘Intentional'

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VINTON, Iowa — The sounds of car engines inching by and excavation crews hauling away rubble filled the steamy, afternoon air on what is normally a quiet neighborhood in Vinton.

A Thursday night fire didn’t injure anyone or harm any firefighters but it brought out hundreds of vehicles to peak the curiosity. Fire investigators say the fire started in a garage along the 900 block of A Avenue but then spread to a three-story garage at 907 1st Avenue, a historic home with seven bedrooms and on the market for $545,000.

Fire Chief Gary McKenna said, on Friday, the process of pinpointing an exact cause continues but they are ruling out some options.

“We did rule out a meth lab so that rumor can be put to bed,” said McKenna. “We definitely think it was an intentionally set fire.”

The fire, reported after 10 p.m. on Thursday, also could have been a close call for the surrounding homes. Along this stretch of Vinton, the homes are on larger lots, with spacious front yards, but the structures themselves are close together.

“I was more concerned about (the A Avenue house) going up (in flames),” said neighbor Rusty Thomsen, who saw the fire from A Avenue. “It had been empty for a couple of years and I figured, if it didn’t go down, it might take the whole block down.”

Thomsen said the “flames were probably 100 feet in the air” and that the fire started up fast.

“At midnight, they had the flames knocked down and it was pretty much smoldering.”

McKenna credited a quick response, as well as help from neighboring fire departments, on keeping the flames contained to the two garages and the vacant house on A Avenue.

“Had that structure (A Avenue) gotten going so much before we got there, it could have spread to the houses.”

While the threat of smoldering ruins fades, the continuous parade of curiosity-seekers filled this Friday in Vinton, with cars, trucks, even people riding golf carts slowing down to watch the fire that nearly took out a historic home.

“If someone actually set it, it’s actually very disrespectful and rude,” said Masha Peckham, who lives nearby and walked over for a glance. “It’s messed up.”

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