MASSIVE FIRE: Old Younkers Building Burns

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The Des Moines Fire Department is working to put out hot spots after a massive fire in downtown Des Moines destroyed the old Younkers building at 713 Walnut Street.

Firefighters arrived at the scene a little before 1:00 Saturday morning. The call about the fire came in from a Des Moines Fire Department paramedic who noticed the flames while responding to a call on Court Avenue.


Fire department spokesperson Brian O'Keefe says firefighters made their way into the building and up to the fifth floor of the eight story building before determining it was not safe to continue. They retreated to fight the fire from a defensive position.

The flames spread quickly and parts of the building started to collapse with large chunks falling onto Walnut Street. Firefighters worked to keep the flames from reaching other buildings but heat has damaged several surrounding buildings.

closurePolice have barricaded the street from 6th to 9th Street and Grand to Mulberry in an attempt to keep traffic away from the scene. Traffic downtown is very congested and officials are asking people to stay out of the area. Some skywalk access is also shut down because of fire damage.

MidAmerican Energy has cut the power and gas to the area near the Youkers building.

Fire crews from Clive, West Des Moines, and Urbandale have been helping the Des Moines Fire Department with operations, but Clive and Urbandale have since been released from the scene. Polk County Emergency Management and the Des Moines Police Department are also assisting at the scene.

The building has been cleared, and no injuries have been reported.

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Brian O'Keefe of the Des Moines Fire Department describes the evacuation of the old Younkers building.

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  • Harry Moyer

    I wondered back in 2005 how long it would be before it got torched. Follow the money… unfortunately, if it leads to anyone with “connections” it’ll never see the light of day.

    I miss the days of actual investigative journalism.

    • Joe

      Harry Moyer is dead on! No electricity and somehow buns to the ground… Wonder who pocketed that money.

    • Former DSM resident

      Nailed it! I just heard about this from my mother in California. I told her before looking at articles on the fire. Something is hinkey about this. I’ll miss the old gal. i had fond memories working there in the 90’s

  • ceeee2014

    Even though the store has been closed a long time this is another loss for our memories, when going to Younkers was a wonderful excursion. The kind elevator ladies, the Tea Room, the coffee in little carafes, basement bargains, and my mother’s “charge-a-plate” that looked like a dog tag. So glad no one was injured in the fire and bless our firefighters for their work.

  • Brian Keith

    just imagine if cuts were made to the Public Safety when i lived in Des Moines there would of been at least 3 buildings on fire but thankfully The Cutbacks were found else where

  • Ray Pasutti

    Lot’s of good memories when I was a kid, Going to Younkers to look at the big Christmas display in the corner windows. Sorry to see the old girl go.

  • Sandra Dusenbery

    the heart and soul of Des Moines when I was young;the tea room was so special, the help was wonderful, my Grandma Britson never threw away a Younkers box, re-purposed them, this fire makes me sad…

  • Hugo S. LaVia

    Looks like WHO is covering two stories – Younkers burning and the Cyclones flaming out.

    Any OTHER news?

  • Lisa hashman

    I remember eating at the tea room and ordering a rarebit burger, they were the best. Also did christmas shopping when i worked at the equitable building

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