Marquette hardware store 'not rebuilding' after fire - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Marquette hardware store 'not rebuilding' after fire

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Fire destroys four Marquette buildings on March 17 Fire destroys four Marquette buildings on March 17
MARQUETTE (KWWL) -

It's been one month since a devastating fire destroyed four buildings in the Mississippi River town of Marquette, leaving nine people without a home and resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

In the early hours of March 17, flames devoured the Marquette Hardware Store building, which also held a beauty salon and four apartments. The fire quickly spread to an adjacent duplex, single-family home and a storefront/garage, destroying a total of four buildings.

MarMac fire chief Dan Bickel said Friday the cause of the fire will likely never be known with any certainty, as there is physically nothing left behind to investigate. He did say the fire originated at the back of the Marquette Hardware Store building, where there was electrical wiring. He also said there's no reason to believe the cause of the fire was suspicious.

Incredibly, nobody was injured in this disaster.

Mary Jo Pirc owned the Marquette Hardware Store. It was a business that had been in her family for 69 years. She also owned the entire building that housed it, as well as the duplex behind the structure.

"I've been over here everyday, picking up nails off the sidewalk," Pirc said Friday, standing in front of the now-empty lot on North Street that held her buildings.

She lives just across the street from the site and said she's still in the habit of walking "to work" every morning.

"It's been in our family for so many years, and it's just-- it's always been there," Pirc said. "That's the hardest part: realization that it's no longer there...I think that's why I keep coming back."

Pirc, who is 70, said she made a difficult decision this week.

"I have made a decision on, I'm not going to rebuild...That was a decision that was hard to reach, too, because we put so much time and effort into the store and all our rentals and everything," Pirc said. "I actually thought about rebuilding, I really did, about 15 times, and I thought, 'No, I'd better leave that to somebody younger and maybe somebody with some different ideas and everything, so that's what I've decided."

She said she hopes the person who purchases the lot from her will build another business, for the sake of Marquette, her small hometown.

She and other fire victims are now in the process of itemizing their losses for insurance purposes.

Pirc said community support has kept her going through this ordeal.

"You can't understand the support that you get from the area and the people and the communities," Pirc said. "It's not just our little local community, it's far-strung. It's just like, wow. It's fantastic. It's beyond my imagination."

The total cost of all the damage won't be known until insurance claims are filed. In addition destroying four buildings, the fire also melted siding and caused smoke damage in other structures nearby.

A long-time group in Marquette called Friends Helping Friends is collecting donations of money for the victims. Organizer Cathy Corpian said the victims still need money to buy furniture for the new homes they've found since the fire.

To contribute, Corpian said, people can make out a check to Friends Helping Friends and send it to:

Friends Helping Friends Fund
P.O. BOX 371
McGregor, Iowa 52157

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