Fire destroyed the 75-year-old building that housed the Chamber of Commerce in the southeast Iowa town of Washington on Sunday afternoon. Dozens of firefighters from several surrounding communities responded to the blaze, which took six hours to contain. Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman says the building was already engulfed when the first crew arrived.
Goodman says: "The fire was coming out all aspects of the building. It was coming out the top. It was coming out the southeast corner of the building, back in the doors there. It was very dangerous." No one is reported hurt. The building was sold last week to a man identified as Lynn Beachy of Solon. Chief Goodman says Beachy has admitted he accidentally started the fire while he was cutting metal inside the building. Chamber executive director Susan Wellington says the loss of the building is tremendous.
Wellington says: "Seeing it almost put me into tears because all of my records are gone. The Chamber was founded in 1935. We’ve got nothing left." The Chamber had planned to move to a new building in March. The building was used as a car dealership decades ago. An economic development company and small insurance company also had offices in the building.