ROCK VALLEY, Iowa (KELO) – Some people are calling it the largest fire Rock Valley, Iowa, has ever seen. The call came in around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. By the time firefighters arrived, the flames were shooting into the sky.
The fire was so bad that four different departments responded. The good news is no one was hurt.
“You can replace the building but you can’t replace the lives, so that’s our number one priority,” Rock Valley Fire Chief Brent Eshuis said.
The $6.5 million Riverview Ridge Senior Living center was getting close to opening. Instead, it went up in flames.
“He came in and said, ‘There’s a fire in the neighborhood.’ So got up and got dressed, went outside and saw the smoke and couldn’t believe and went and joined a neighbor in her backyard and just watching it grow and it just didn’t stop and the fire trucks were already there,” resident Deb Vogel said.
Vogel and her neighbors watched as the fire grew.
“Approximately five minutes after we were here, the flames were through the roof on the portion of the building on the east hand,” Eshuis said.
The Rock Valley Fire and Rescue Chief says that Riverview Ridge Senior Living did have a sprinkler system installed, but it was not yet hooked up to water.
“The whole building was, but obviously if it isn’t hooked up, we can’t use it,” Eshuis said.
Residents hadn’t moved in yet and there was no staff on site when the fire started.
“Nobody was hurt, so we’re incredibly thankful for that, but there are some people that have sold homes and have made plans to move in here in two to three weeks and now their lives are upended. We’re going to work hard to help them figure something out,” President of Board for Riverview Ridge Senior Living Todd Van Tol said.
The parts of the building that didn’t burn received smoke and water damage.
“It was just a sick feeling to see something that’s brand new just go up in smoke like that, and to know that so many people were ready to move in there and some had some possessions in there already, and to know that was just going to put life on hold for quite a few people,” Vogel said.
“It’s a huge blow to the community and to those people as well,” Eshuis said.
Officials haven’t yet released a cause of the fire.