Fire destroys Kalona building
KALONA — A large fire claimed part of a building at 215 S. 14th St. in Kalona yesterday afternoon.
According to the Washington County Communications Center call log, a call reporting a large oil fire came in at 1:10 p.m, which had engulfed the building.
“We had eight fire departments there and a Hazmat team was called to the scene,” said Kalona Fire Department’s chief Steve Yotty. “Kalona was there until 7 p.m.”
The other fire departments that responded to the scene for mutual aid were from Ainsworth, Hills, Keota, Riverside, and Washington, the communications log said. Kalona QRS, Lone Tree Fire Department, Wellman Fire Department, and the Washington County Ambulance were also on scene. No injuries were reported.
Yotty said John and Diane Schrock own the building. He has spoken with them but they aren’t sure what happened. The state fire marshal was called in to investigate the scene, Yotty said.
“The fire marshal was in last night and the cause of the fire is undetermined,” he said.
The part of the building that was on fire was used as a storage area for the Hershberger Oil Company, which is why the Hazmat team was called in, Yotty said.
“A lot of oil was in there and the runoff from the fire had to be contained,” he said.
Washington County Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Smith contacted Paul Brandt, Environmental Specialist Senior for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about the fire. Brandt arrived on scene at 2:30 p.m. and was there this morning.
“It was a long building that was rented out,” Brandt said. “The part where the oil company stored their oil was destroyed.”
Brandt was contacted because there were concerns about the oil spilled from the fire. When he arrived there was oil leaking from the storage area, mixing with the water used to fight the fire to the nearby ditches, he said.
“The blessing is the oil was contained by the ice,” Brandt said.
If there weren’t ice around in the ditches, the oil could have gotten into the local waterways and eventually made its way to the English River, Brandt said.
A private company from Des Moines has been hired to begin the cleanup process, Brandt said.
“They will be pumping the oil out of the ditches and scraping the gravel lot,” he said.
The cleanup process is expected to take a couple of days because of the weather, Brandt said. He will be stopping by the site every day to check on the process.
Brandt doesn’t expect any testing, needing to be done on the site for further contamination.
“Usually with oil you can tell by just looking if there’s still some around,” he said.