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Fire ravages Avoca business

Submitted photo Twisted metal, icicles and scorched equipment is all that is left after a fire early Saturday at Avoca Spray Service.

AVOCA -- An early morning fire devastated an Avoca business Saturday.

The Avoca Fire Department responded to a fire call at about 1 a.m. Saturday at Avoca Spray Service, 888 210th Ave., located on the northeast outskirts of the town.

"The main shop was already engulfed and another two buildings were on fire," said Eric Wettschreck, spokesman for the Avoca Fire Department.

Due to the scope of the blaze and potential for spreading to other buildings, mutual aid was requested immediately from the Slayton Fire Department and later help was also sought from Currie and Fulda.

"We knew that we needed everything," said Wettschreck. "With the size of our department, we weren't going to be able to handle it."

The nature of the business was also cause for concern, with potentially explosive chemicals and equipment housed in the buildings.

"There were a lot of chemicals and paint and oil," Wettschreck said. "They had a hydraulic shop in there, welding torches. It was a big shop. There were tires blowing up and propane tanks blowing up and paint cans blowing up -- not major explosions like in Hollywood, but smaller ones."

The firefighters' main objective was to keep the fire from spreading.

"There was no saving the stuff already on fire," by the time the fire crew arrived on the scene, Wettschreck said. "But there are quite a few other buildings out there, and the way the wind was blowing, the main concern was to knock it down so the other buildings didn't start on fire."

Besides the wind, cold temperatures also made fighting the blaze a difficult undertaking.

"Our equipment was freezing up, all the people were freezing," Wettschreck described. "Your gloves get wet, and you can't move your hands anymore. We were cycling people in and out of trucks to warm up and dry out. That's the cool thing about mutual aid -- everyone works really well together. We were grateful for all the help."

Wettschreck estimates that the firefighters got the blaze under control by about 6 a.m. Saturday, but members of his department remained on the scene until about 8 a.m. to watch for hot spots. The firefighters were called back out to the scene on Saturday evening to deal with some flare-ups.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. State Fire Marshal Steve Kellen was contacted early Saturday morning and is expected to examine the scene today.

Avoca Spray Service, one of just a handful of businesses in Avoca, is owned by Larry Smith of rural Slayton. Smith could not be reached for comment.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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