Prophetstown rising from the ashes a year after devastating fire

Residents in Prophetstown, Illinois, vividly remember a devastating downtown fire that happened exactly one year ago.

Get more coverage of the fire – click here.

While nobody was hurt, it wiped out a block of businesses.

There’s hope along Washington Street, where the Prophetstown Area Historical Society was looking over its new home Tuesday, July 15, 2014. The downtown buildings symbolize a survival story.

“We’re very optimistic about the future of the historical society,” said Janet Goodell.

It wasn’t so promising a year ago.

“It’s like the end of the world, and the end of a small town,” said longtime resident Jim Fisk on July 15, 2013.

The aftermath  was overwhelming. The fire, intentionally started by kids who were later caught, caused at least $3 million in damage.

“It leaves a pit in your stomach,” said Prophetstown Mayor Steve Swanson.

Large trees represent a fresh start. They stand where historic buildings remained since the 1800’s.

A few steps away, the IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union is ready to build a new branch, an investment to encourage more activity.

“Sometimes you need that first person to take that first step forward,” said Laura Ernzen, vice president of marketing for the credit union. “To build and rise from the ashes, so to speak.”

Prophetstown was hosting a cookout and ground-breaking ceremony for the credit union Tuesday evening, July 15. They planned to pause and recognize the “Prophetstown Strong” campaign along Washington Street.

That community spirit is crucial to recovery in Prophetstown. It’s why residents and businesses aren’t about to give up.

Melted siding is like a scar from the ordeal on a nearby home. It’s a reminder of Prophetstown’s pain. After going through all that, it’s a town that’s healing with hard work.

“I think it’s kind of a new beginning,” said Mayor Swanson. “Look into the future. Let the past be the past.”

Hope along Washington Street as this town recovers.

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