Crews battle Strawberry Point fire

Multiple agencies responded to fight a fire in Strawberry Point on Monday, which left at least five people displaced.

Fire damages a Strawberry Point living facility on Monday, December 10, 2018. (COURTESY PHOTO)

It was just about 1 p.m. when the Strawberry Point and Edgewood fire departments started fighting a fire at Circle of Life Missions, which rents rooms to individuals and assists seniors.

Strawberry Point Police Chief Ryan Evans said they first got everyone out.

"There was five or six elderly people that were in there. We escorted them out safely without problems," Evans said. "We were able to relocate them to the city hall. The Red Cross came out to help us."

The logistics of battling the flames were left to the firefighters.

Strawberry Point Assistant Fire Chief Dean Courtnage said the old building created many challenges for them.

"When they built it, they didn't put any fire stops. So once it got into the attic, it was just like a book of matches," Courtnage explained.

Courtnage added, "it had a metal roof on, so that keeps all the flames and all the heat inside and smoke, so it makes it very hard to fight the fire."

He guessed the fire was burning for some time before Circle of Life made the call.

"By the time we got in there, it was all the way through the whole building, so basically the building was shot already," Courtnage said.

Officials with Elkader, the Iowa State Patrol and Clayton County also assisted.

Community members stepped up to help instantly.

Steve and Deb Yokiel collected coffee, hot chocolate and sandwiches for the firefighters and brought it to the scene.

The Back Home Country Cookin' restaurant opened specifically for the Circle of Life residents and staff members to gather.

John Sparrgrove, the brother of the Circle of Life owner, said the residents had a place to stay on Monday night. However, he said they didn't have a long-term plan yet.

Courtnage said firefighters were able to save a few items from the building, but people would be starting all over.

He said, "they basically lost everything they had in their rooms."

Firefighters were on scene until about 7 p.m. on Monday night and were called back again at around 9 p.m.

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