Disasters and Emergencies
House and Building Fires
Fire is the most common of all hazards. Every year, fires cause thousands of deaths and injuries and billions of dollars in property damage.
A fire can engulf a structure in a matter of minutes. Understanding the basic characteristics of fire and learning the proper safety practices can be the key to surviving a house or building fire.
For additional information about fire safety, escape planning and more, visit the U.S. Fire Administration website.
Know what to do before, during, and after a fire.
Iowa disaster history
Merle Hay Mall Younkers Fire of 1978
The original Younkers store at Merle Hay Mall was destroyed by a fire that broke out about 9:30 AM on November 5, 1978. The fire caused an estimated $20 million in damage, and ten store employees lost their lives. The store was closed for nearly a year in order to rebuild. Des Moines fire officials announced the following spring that a probable source of the Younkers fire was a hydrogen buildup, caused by alkaline water from a heating and cooling system dripping onto copper and aluminum. They surmised that an electrical spark such as static electricity could have touched off the hydrogen and started the fire. Court documents filed by prosecuting attorneys in 1981 stated that an electrical malfunction caused wires that were covered in polyvinyl chloride to overheat, giving off hydrochloric acid.