A fire broke out Monday evening in a second-floor apartment at 1420 Central Avenue, sending one person to the hospital.
Dubuque police Lt. Scott Baxter said 46-year-old Donald Sheldon went to Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque Monday night and, later, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City for treatment of burn injuries from the fire. Baxter said Sheldon was a tenant in the apartment. Officials believe a second resident was also injured but fled the scene. Baxter said officials have not yet located this person.
Tuesday afternoon, Dubuque fire marshal Mark Ludescher said investigators searching the apartment of the blaze's origin located materials consistent with those found in a meth lab.
He and fire chief Dan Brown said this was Dubuque's fifth meth lab fire in the past 12 months. They estimated that number is slightly higher than the average year's worth of meth lab fires, which they said might have something to do with the specific method of manufacturing the methamphetamine.
The other responses to meth lab fires were Dec. 19 at 911 Garfield Avenue, Dec. 4 at 1001 Garfield Avenue, May 31 at 2509 Jackson Street and Feb. 15 at 2200 Windsor Avenue. Officials also responded to a fire alarm at Loras College on Feb. 29 and found an explosion caused by an active meth lab in the bathroom area of the Lynch-McCarthy apartments.
The building where Monday's fire blazed stands in close proximity to two other structures, sharing a common wall with the building that houses popular local Greek restaurant Zoro's Gyros.
Zoro's owner Manushaqe "Chachi" Sulaj was at the scene Monday evening as crews responded. She said she was the only one in the restaurant when the fire broke out in the building next door.
"I was at work at the time and I have my next door neighbor, he lives upstairs, he just come yelling and screaming and just say, 'Call 911 because it's fire,' and I just throw the phone at him and he called me and he grabbed me and get out," Sulaj said, getting emotional.
Travis Trebian was the neighbor who alerted Sulaj to the fire.
"We're sitting in my apartment, I heard a loud explosion, heard glass shattering, and when I came out of the building I saw fire coming from next door," he said Monday evening.
Sulaj said she plans on closing the restaurant briefly to fix the smoke damage and then re-opening. Zoro's Gyros website will have that re-opening information once it's known, Sulaj said. That site is HERE.
On Tuesday, Sulaj met with people from the city's health department as well as insurance agents and a cleaning company.
"Smell is horrible. It's too much smoke," she said, entering her restaurant. "I'm upset right now and, like I said, I'm shocked."
The smoke left its mark: a thin layer of grime and an unmistakable smell.
"I have to reorder again everything," Sulaj said, including in that list food, cups and straws. "It's too much smoke."
Smoke damage can be widespread in a situation like this, Brown said.
"It can penetrate into packaging and stuff and then it becomes a contamination issue for food and that type of thing," the fire chief said.
Sulaj said she could not get through this ordeal without the support she's received from her customers and friends.
"My personal phone never stop ringing from my customers, from my friends around, how much they love me, how much they support me, and I hope I open soon for them, to see their faces again here," Sulaj said.
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