SPENCER, Ia. — An aerial photograph of Spencer shows a downtown that looks as if a tornado ripped through and leveled the buildings.But it was a huge fire, and it was caused by fireworks.Near the photograph that hangs in the Clay County Heritage Center is a bowling ball-sized wad of melted marbles. It was found in the Bjornstad Drug Store, where the fire started after a boy dropped a sparkler into a stack of fireworks for sale.“It takes 900 degrees to melt marbles,” said museum director Ryan Odor.The June 27, 1931, fire that destroyed 80 businesses, caused $2 million in damage and captured national attention led to laws that banned fireworks in Iowa and several other states.“Every Fourth of July the Spencer fire comes to the forefront of people’s mind,” said City Councilman Steve Bomgaars. “It does kind of exemplify Spencer.”So when the Iowa Legislature this year made fireworks legal in Iowa, many city leaders and residents were against it, he said.Yet today if you can’t find items to explode on this 24-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 71 from Spencer to Spirit Lake, you aren’t looking. Nineteen licensed dealers sell fireworks off the highway. Many of the temporary tents are stacked with fireworks labeled… Read full this story
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