LAKE PARK, Iowa - Five northwest Iowa fire departments and more than 40 firefighters worked to douse flames that ultimately destroyed a Lake Park business early Thursday morning.
Market Street Tire, owned by Randy Johnson, has been a fixture in downtown Lake Park for 35 years.
Lake Park Fire Chief Brandon Ehret said his department was paged at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday. When it arrived on the scene, the fire was contained to the back of the building, in the shop area. Mechanical equipment and tires, however, fueled the blaze.
“We attempted to get it knocked down,” Ehret said. “The fire spread very rapidly to the front of the building. It took out the shop and got into the offices and another storage area that had a bunch of tires in it.
“The building is a total loss,” the fire chief said. “The nature of the fire, once it got into the roof, it was hard to get contained.”
Neighboring fire departments from Spirit Lake, Milford, Harris and Ocheyedan provided mutual aid, and Lake Park Police and Rescue, Lakes Regional Ambulance and Dickinson County Emergency Management were all on the scene. No injuries were reported.
Water access proved to be the primary challenge in fighting the fire. With Silver Lake froze over, firefighters broke out a section of ice at one of the boat landings to be able to fill tankers with lake water.
Gusty northwest winds overnight actually worked in favor of the firefighters, Ehret said, as the building was rather isolated on the block, and its parking lot was on the south side. Still, everything inside the building was a total loss, from a “tremendous” tire inventory to shop equipment and two vehicles that belonged to customers.
Johnson said firefighters allowed him to unlock the door and retrieve his shop computer, the keys to all of the customer vehicles that were parked outside and the petty cash box.
Johnson opened Market Street Tire in 1983, and five years later purchased the 1950s-era building that was once a car dealership. It was a family business that employed him and his daughter, as well as a full-time mechanic and two part-time workers.
By Thursday afternoon, Johnson had already secured temporary office space across the street and has leads on work space as well. He still has some inventory that was stored in a warehouse behind the tire shop, which was not damaged.
“We’ll carry on; we just don’t have a facility right now,” Johnson said.
In a small town like Lake Park, Johnson is thankful for all of the offers of help that have come forward. He even received a call from the high school boys basketball coach, offering his team’s assistance in clean-up efforts.
“A lot of people have been saying, ‘Whatever you need….’” Johnson said appreciatively. “I really need to thank the fire department, the ambulance guys on the scene … that was a big job.
“I praise the local early response from the fire department. There were a lot of guys here and all those guys had to go to work this morning.”
The Iowa Fire Marshal, from Okoboji, was on site by 8 a.m. Thursday. Ehret said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Firefighters were on the scene for nearly eight hours.
The block in which Market Street Tires was located has had its share of adversity.
A decade ago, on Dec. 28, 2008, 11 fire departments battled a blaze in that same city block, between Market Street Tires and the Lake Park Post Office. Three buildings were destroyed in that blaze and the post office was badly damaged. The tire shop lost a storage building in that fire as well.