Courier Staff Writer
The Ottumwa Fire Department spent two hours trying to put out the fire at a Mexican restaurant, but in the end, spent many more hours trying to save the buildings around it.
The fire department was called out about midnight, said Mike Craff, an assistant fire chief. He said there were flames showing when they arrived.
Deputy Chief Cory Benge, the fire investigator, said flames could be seen coming from the basement and from the top floor of the two story building.
"They did offensive attack inside for approximately two hours," said Craff, "but it had too big a head start."
The bright orange restaurant, located in a restored, brick-faced industrial building, had many "voids" and spaces where the fire went. The department would get it knocked down on one side, Craff said, only for it to spring up even worse at another corner of the building.
An employee at the Ottumwa office of the American Red Cross said his office was involved by giving water to firefighters and because their Red Cross building is the next door neighbor of El Ranch Grande. He said firefighters did a great job keeping the flames away from the rest of the commercial block. Neighbors at the intersection of Jefferson and Main streets include a small market, a radio station and the Red Cross. Across the street: A pizza place, a restaurant and an under-construction community building. All of those buildings appeared undamaged Tuesday morning.
El Ranch Grande, however, appears to be a total loss.
"Structural collapse is our main concern right now," said Benge. "There's obvious signs of deterioration due to the fire."
He and the State Fire Marshal's Office will be investigating the fire. There was no speculation as to cause early Tuesday.