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Fire Damages Historic Building on Franklin Street in Pella

Posted: Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 at 5:01 am
Author: KNIA/KRLS News Staff

A historic Pella landmark at 914 Franklin Street in Pella was badly damaged by a Monday morning.

Franklin Street and West 2nd Street west of downtown Pella were closed for over four hours as crews from Pella Fire, Pella Ambulance, and Pella Police responded to the blaze just after 9:10 a.m. Pella Fire Chief Doug Van Gorkom tells KNIA/KRLS News the flames started in a shed behind the home.

“When the [tenant] came home, that little building in the back was fully engulfed,” he says. “And that’s what caused the fire to transfer to the dwelling.”

Van Gorkom says the roof has collapsed, and flames and smoke were billowing out of the top of the building for well over three hours, with Pella Firefighters using their aerial truck and numerous crew members to attack the flames from multiple angles. The fire stayed in the attic, but water and smoke damage were present in the entire building. Van Gorkom says the fire was difficult to fight in windy conditions and because of where it was located.

“When the roof went down, it went on top of the fire,” Van Gorkom says. “When that happened, we were not going to do an interior attack because of it being unsafe for the firefighters to go in there, so we cut holes in the roof and attacked from the outside as best we could until we had it knocked down, then we were able to start doing an interior attack once we knew where the fire was actually at in the attic.”

He adds that the fire didn’t spread due to natural brick wall breaks in the structure, and it was contained to the upper floor.

Val Van Kooten, director of the Pella Historical Society and Museums tells KNIA/KRLS News the house was built in 1849 by Jacob Van Ham, and is one of the first permanent houses built in Pella. The brick is laid in a diamond pattern, which originated in the Netherlands in the 1300s. She adds it was very typical for the Dutch to combine residences and businesses under one roof. For many years it was a blacksmith shop on the west side and you can still see the marks of the branding irons that were burned into inside wall posts. On the west side there’s a long iron wall tie, which gives a good indication of its age.

Owner of the building Robert Klein tells KNIA/KRLS News he’s thankful nobody was inside at the time.

“There’s nothing you can do with things that have already happened–that’s how I lead my life,” he says. “Am I unhappy? Well, yeah. Am I disappointed? Sure, all those emotions, but am I tearing my hair out? No. And, nobody was hurt.”

He says he’s unsure of how to move forward with the building his father bought over 50 years ago out of a passion for historic preservation. Chief Van Gorkom says the cause has yet to be officially determined.

Stay tuned to KNIA/KRLS for updates on the fire at this historic Pella landmark.