Total loss: 3 injured as fire destroys Dubuque County bar, apartments

BERNARD, Iowa — Firefighters rescued three people trapped by a fire that destroyed a popular Dubuque County bar early Wednesday.

The mother and her two sons, ages 10 and 5, were tenants of one of the building’s two apartments. They were rescued via a second-floor window of a building at 268 Jess St. in Bernard. The building houses Painted Horse Saloon.

“First responders put a ladder to a second-floor window and got them out that way,” said Bernard Fire Chief Jason Kremer.

Kremer said the three suffered from minor smoke inhalation and were treated at the scene and released. There were no other injuries.

“We’re just so grateful everyone is OK,” said building owner Amanda Schlemme. “Until we knew everybody was out safely, we were very concerned.”

A tenant of the other apartment wasn’t home at the time of the fire, Kremer said.

Bernard firefighters responded at about 12:50 a.m. Wednesday to the scene.

Fire departments from Cascade, Centralia-Peosta, Epworth, Farley, Key West and La Motte provided mutual aid in the form of manpower, additional water and an aerial truck.

“The fire departments from all of the towns were just great,” Schlemme said. “It was pretty incredible the way they worked to put the fire out.”

Firefighters remained on the scene for five hours.

Kremer said the building’s construction posed a challenge to firefighters.

“It is an all-brick building, so the way to fight the fire was (from the) top down,” he said.

Residents at a nearby home at 519 Leffler St. also were forced to evacuate when smoke filled their home, according to a press release issued by the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department.

It states that the Painted Horse fire appears to have originated in a utility closet. The total damage to 268 Jess St. was estimated at $150,000.

“I’d say (the building) is probably a total loss, given the age of the structure,” Kremer said. “It was … built in 1900. It has been a grocery store, and then a bar and restaurant for quite a few years.”

The American Red Cross is providing assistance to the displaced residents, according to the release.

Resources Unite Director Josh Jasper said his organization will serve as a drop site for donations for displaced residents.

“They lost everything,” Jasper said.

Lindsay Engling is helping to organize donations and has created an online fundraising page for the mother and her two sons. The GoFundMe site seeks to raise $10,000 for the family.

Engling said the family already has received clothing donations.

“There is a need more for gift cards, household items or just a simple (monetary) donation,” Engling said.

Schlemme also owns Two Gingers, a bar and restaurant in Cascade. Several businesses in that community also are accepting donations for the displaced tenants. Lyons Service Center, The Corner Taproom and Bobbi Jo Volkens with American Realty are listed as donation collection sites on the Cascade Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.

Travis and Amanda Schlemme purchased the Painted Horse building and business in 2020.

“We opened (the Painted Horse) back up in July of last year — it had been closed for a period of time,” Amanda Schlemme said. “It has been a really great business.”

She said it’s too early to know what will come next for it.

“We will figure all of that out,” she said.