UPDATE: Cigarette blamed for theatre fire - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: Cigarette blamed for theatre fire

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WASHINGTON (KWWL) -- It's a manager's worst nightmare. ''All my phones started ringing and here we are,'' said Dick Shepherd, manager of State Theater in Washington.

Shepherd arrived Wednesday morning at the movie theater he's managed for more than 20 years to find his projection room completely destroyed by fire.

''The booth, the whole life blood of the movie theater is pretty well trashed, so, no shows tonight,'' Shepherd said.

Officials say the fire ignited from a discarded cigarette in that projection room.

But crews were able to keep the fire from spreading any further because of a quick response.

Part of the reason firefighters were able to respond so quickly is because the fire station in Washington is right across the street from the theater.  Officials say had they arrived a few minutes later, the more than century old building would have been a loss.

''It's an old building, dry fire load, quite a bit of clutter tucked in here and there and the scenario could have been a whole lot different,'' said Washington fire chief Tom Wide.

Still, it will be some time before the historic theater reopens, a significant loss for the small town and for the man who's poured his heart into the business.

''It's very sad because you can see the passion he has for this place. It's just a shame,'' said Nick Simmons, who's lived in Washington for 10 years.

''There's a certain sadness and concern.  It's a very important building to the town.''

Originally built as an Opera House in 1893, it is now a movie theater. The State Theater is one of the longest running, continuing operation movie house in the world according to the Chamber of Commerce.

No one was injured in the fire.

Online Producer: Jason Mortvedt and Jason Epner

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