Chief deems Newcomb fire suspicious

Portions of the upper floors are ready to completely crumble following Friday night's Newcomb fire

Quincy's fire chief said Saturday that the fire that destroyed the Newcomb Hotel is suspicious.

A cause of the fire won't be known for days, but Chief Joe Henning said that there was no electricity to the building effectively ruling out the possibility of an accidental fire.

"The reality is this building had no utilities going to it, so there would be no accidental cause for lack of a better term," he said. "It would be incendiary in nature. It's just a matter of if it was accidental by the individual or intentional. I don't know if we will ever find that out other than through working with PD And some investigations and interviews with people."

Firefighters will continue to watch on the destroyed building throughout the weekend to ensure it doesn't rekindle.

The five-alarm fire broke out at the Newcomb Hotel at approximately 8:45 p.m. Friday. Nearly every firefighter and police officer from Quincy responded to the scene.

Henning and Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore held the press conference Saturday morning to let the public know that there were no fatalities or injuries reported.

Click here for video of a press conference held Saturday morning with Quincy officials.

One witness first reported the fire on the second floor, but that's unconfirmed. Now that the fire's out, the incident moves into the investigative stage.

"I'm going to be honest with you," Henning said. "With this type of fire, with the danger we got there, we are not going to commit a lot of crews to do anything internal."

A city crew will cordon off the area around the building, and Henning urged onlookers to respect the barriers for their own safety.

Moore said traffic will remain blocked at Fourth Street.

Moore says that the city of Quincy is working today to contact building owner Victor Horowitz of Newcomb LLC.

According to Chuck Bevelheimer with the City of Quincy Planning and Zoning Department, demolition of the Newcomb Hotel will begin Sunday morning at 6 a.m. He said the goal is to have the walls down by the end of the day. This could result in the streets opening back up around the area. For the time being, drivers will take a detour placed at Highway 57 and Jefferson directing traffic to use Jefferson to Eighth Street or Front street to get into town. If you want to leave the city, you should take Eighth street to Broadway to access the bridge.

The building is a total loss.

For more video from Quincy Fire Chief Joe Henning and Mayor Kyle Moore at the scene Friday night, click


to watch a video.

Click here

for raw video of the firefighters battling the blaze.

The fire was seemingly contained late Friday to the east side of the building where there are three stories. The fire spread to the west side of the building and into the older five-story section.

Eyewitness Geoffrey Fletcher was leaving work when he saw smoke.

"I started seeing smoke in the second story, four rooms from the edge," he said. "People were calling 911 and I ran back in and called my boss. I told him about the fire so they evacuated Fitz's and then three fire trucks came. I came around the other side and the back was just on fire."

Crews evacuated the Lincoln Douglas Apartments near the Newcomb Hotel, because the smell of smoke. Residents were taken to the Quincy Senior and Family Resource Center at 639 York by city bus. The American Red Cross asked that family and friends visit to reach their loved ones.

There was no damage to the Lincoln Douglas Apartments or the Gardner Museum of Architecture & Design.

"If they're in the area, if they could stay back as far as they can," Moore asked onlookers Friday. "There is a lot of smoke in the area, especially on the west side of town. You know, we're trying our best to evacuate the Lincoln Douglas apartments right now."

"Right now we're just concerned with containing the fire and certainly hope there is no loss of life here," Mayor Moore explained.

Stay with us for more details regarding the fire that affected so much of downtown Quincy and the community.

Businesses around the hotel will reopen Saturday afternoon, according to Travis Brown, executive director of the Historic Quincy Business District. Fitz's on 4th and The Patio will be open Saturday night.

The fire comes in the less than a week after the City Council voted to begin discussions with a Southeast Iowa developer interested in redeveloping the hotel.

The council agreed Monday to begin negotiations with Cedar Rapids, Iowa developer Frantz-Hobart Community Investors on an $8 million investment that would see commercial property and apartments developed at the long-vacant hotel.

Construction efforts at the hotel have been long mired in false starts, broken promises and legal battles. It's remained empty and unused for nearly three decades.

Most recently the city began foreclosure proceedings against Horowitz after he defaulted on a $500,000 redevelopment loan from the city's revolving loan committee. The city also cited Horowitz after a section of the building collapsed during spring rain storms.

Both legal issues remain unsettled in Adams County Court.