I happened to be in Cape on vacation July 7, 1989, when I heard about a fire at Broadway and Fountain. I was about 1,100 miles out of my jurisdiction, but nobody hassled me when I started taking pictures of firefighters fighting a fire at what was left of the old Idan-Ha Hotel.
Investigators determined that a tenant on the second floor left her room without realizing that she had left a pot cooking on an electric stove. She heard her smoke alarm going off, ran back into the apartment and found it engulfed in flames. She left the door open, which allowed it to spread to the rest of the building.
The Missourian gave the story extensive play in the July 9, 1989, edition. Missourian photographer Mark Sterkel showed up while I was there, so I was robbed of a chance to get another photo in the paper.
Some residents jumped from windows
About half of the 40 to 45 residents were home when the fire broke out. Several of them jumped out windows and off fire escapes to escape the blaze. The building’s concrete floors and brick walls slowed the spread of the fire upward, but it also trapped the heat, which made the fire difficult to fight.
First priority was rescue
The first call came in at 5:31 p.m.; it went to a second alarm four minutes later. When firefighters arrived, they saw a woman sitting with both legs out a second floor window, “not far from jumping or being overcome by smoke” Assistant Fire Chief Jim Niswonger said. Once she and other residents were evacuated, attention turned to fighting the fire.
A heavy stream of water from the aerial platform ladder truck’s deluge knocked the main blaze down pretty quickly. Two firefighters had minor injuries.
Part of hotel burned in 1968
This 1964 aerial shows the Idan-Ha Hotel before a 1968 fire destroyed the northeast portion of the building. The Common Pleas Courthouse is at the bottom; The Southeast Missourian is in the middle; the Idan-Ha is at the top left, across the street from the H & H Building and the Marquette Hotel. The KFVS TV building hadn’t been constructed yet. I think the tall, light-colored building at the corner of Broadway and Fountain was the Post Office at that time.
Here is a link to The Missourian’s story about the June 29, 1968, fire which destroyed the main section of the hotel, Milady’s Shop, the Rainbow Coffee Shop. Six other nearby businesses were also damaged.
Fire resources stretched thin
While crews from three of the Cape’s four stations were fighting the fire, three other minor fires were reported in the city. Fortunately, they were small enough to be handled without calling in mutual aid from Scott City or Jackson.
Photos of Broadway and Fountain
You can see additional photos of the intersection of Broadway and Fountain, including the Idan-Ha Hotel as it looked in 1966 and the present day.