Oskaloosa.com

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

April 10, 2013

Fire destroys popular restaurant

(Continued)

"After the flames went through the [restaurant] roof, we went defensive," he said.

Other neighbors around the intersection of Jefferson and Main streets include a small grocery store, two radio stations, a pizza place, a restaurant and a community building undergoing renovation. Though the firefighters had the power off to some of the street's residents, all of those structures seemed undamaged Tuesday morning.

El Rancho Grande, however, is a total loss. Tuesday morning, firefighters continued to spray water in through what used to be the roof. The basement had water in it. Benge estimated the water at 6-7 feet deep. He and the chief estimated nearly a million gallons of water were pumped onto the large restaurant building. The fastest-working truck, the snorkel, pumped a thousand gallons per minute for at least seven hours.

"Structural collapse is our main concern right now," said Benge. "There's obvious signs of deterioration due to the fire."

One experienced firefighter said a fair safety margin for fire equipment is to stay one and a half walls away from a dangerous structure. That gives a 20-foot wall a total of 30 feet to tip over, smash to the ground and for debris to spread out. The next building from El Rancho is about 10 feet away.

Benge and the State Fire Marshal's Office will be investigating the incident. There was no speculation as to cause early Tuesday.

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