Fireground video and interview with Des Moines Fire Department spokesman Brian O’Keefe.
Des Moines firefighters responded about 12:50 a.m. Saturday, March 29, 2014 to the old Younkers Building under renovation at 713 Walnut. No building occupants were inside the building under renovation, which also had no detector alarms and no sprinklers. First crews arrived to find the upper two floors fully-involved. A second-alarm was immediately requested. Two or three minutes later the fire alarm was raised to a third alarm.
Firefighting operations were defensive as fire was detected on every floor and collapses were also discovered.
Des Moines responded with six ladder trucks and six engines or pumpers on the third alarm.
The old Younkers building was 7-stories tall and is reported to have been about 115-years-old (completed in 1900) and under renovation for new retail and apartment/condo spaces. The building was the original Younkers Store in downtown Des Moines, which closed on August 12, 2005. Other chains operated by The Bon-Ton include Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Elder-Beerman, and Herberger’s.
Younkers operates as a subsidiary of The Bon-Ton, with locations in seven Midwestern states, mostly in shopping malls. As of 2008, Younkers operates more than forty locations in this region.
Two other high-rise buildings were damaged during the fire. The EMC Insurance Building and the HUB Tower were damaged. The EMC Insurance Building is 19-stories and was completed in 1997. The HUB tower, completed in 1986, is an office high-rise that is 25-stories tall. The base of the high-rise has a retail mall (Kaleidoscope at the Hub). There was a report of vehicles igniting in parking garages near the main fire building.
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