EPWORTH, Iowa — Richard and Patricia Kohn stood by their van watching their possessions smolder as their second-story apartment burned this morning in Epworth.
They let the smoke from the building at the corner of North Center Avenue and East Main Street waft over them, seemingly unaffected by the caustic fumes.
“I’m not sure what happened, and that’s just the truth,” Richard said. “Let’s just say I am beat because this isn’t what I expected.”
The fire was reported at about 11:20 a.m. Friday in the structure that also houses Cox Optical, Epworth TV & Satellite, Heiberger Insurance and The Pizza Factory. Epworth firefighters immediately responded, with the Farley Fire Department providing mutual aid.
Firefighters continued to work at the scene until 5 p.m. No injuries were reported.
While battling the blaze, firefighters tossed boxes out of the broken-out windows of the apartment. They were boxes that the husband and wife had packed for their move to Dubuque later the month after residing in the apartment for 28 years.
“We had a lot of stuff packed up,” Patricia said as she wept.
The Kohns had just left their apartment this morning to drop off an application for a Dubuque apartment when they noticed the smoke.
“Ten days and we would have been out,” Richard said. “It will make it really easy for moving because we ain’t got nothing left.”
Epworth Fire Chief Tom Berger said the fire started in the upstairs bathroom and was confined to the ceiling and attic, but he did not have a damage estimate. A fire investigator will continue to search for a cause, he said.
The Kohns were most distraught over their cats, Scruffy and Nala, who were inside the apartment when the fire broke out. Richard made an attempt to rescue them, but flames blocked the stairwell.
Earlier today, he said he was “keeping false hope” for their survival, but Berger confirmed the felines perished.
The American Red Cross is assisting the Kohns in the wake of the fire.
The apartment is located above the four businesses.
The owners of the structure and The Pizza Factory are Dave and Karen Koss.
The pizza establishment suffered smoke damage, but reopened its kitchen at about 4:30 p.m. today after electricity was restored.
The remaining businesses are without power.
Mike Heiberger, of Heiberger Insurance, said he is unsure when he will reopen.
Phone calls made to Epworth TV & Satellite and Cox Optical rang unanswered this afternoon.
Earlier this month, Cox Optical owner Tim Cox announced that his business would close permanently on Friday, Sept. 27.