Information sought in Fort Dodge fire

-Messenger photo by Jane Curtis Fire destroyed a house at 1817 Fourth Ave. S. early Saturday evening. Fort Dodge Fire Chief Steve Hergenreter said neighbors described the property as abandoned. They said that there had been squatters using the property from time to time. According the Webster Count assessor’s online records, the property is listed as being owned by Jerry and Cheryl Lawton. Hergenreter said authorities were uncertain if there was anyone in the house when it burned. The investigation is continuing.

Investigators looking into a fire at a vacant house Saturday evening are asking the public for any information on “suspicious activity” in the area around the time of the fire.

The fire was reported at 6:22 p.m. at 1811 Fourth Ave. S.

Fort Dodge Fire Chief Steve Hergenreter said the house, which has been vacant for more than a year and had no utilities, used to house a business, Pampered Poodle.

Once arriving on scene, firefighters “found a large volume of fire in the front and attic of the building with heavy smoke throughout,” according to the chief.

While battling the fire, firefighters noticed that a house to the west was in danger of catching fire.

Hergenreter said firefighters launched “an aggressive fire attack” and were able to stop the fire from spreading to the second house, although it did receive heat damage.

What made fighting the blaze challenging was a north wind, causing the fire to spread and cause major damage to the building, which included a partially-collapsed roof, the chief said.

Six additional firefighters were called to the scene to help with the fire.

Hergenreter said one firefighter was transported to UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center for over-exertion.

He asked anyone who may have information on the fire, or anyone who may have seen suspicious activity in the area around 6 p.m. to call the Webster County Law Enforcement Center at 573-2323.