Machine shed full of palm trees catches fire, forces road closure

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- A significant stretch of U.S.  61 in west Davenport was closed down on Friday, Feb. 9 after a shed full of tropical plants caught fire, creating billowing smoke and requiring five Davenport Fire companies to respond.

The fire at 6101 West River Drive broke out around 10 a.m. The shed is owned by longtime Davenport Farmers Market chairman Pat Connor, affectionately known as Palm Tree Pat. Connor sells palm trees and other tropical plants at the market.

"Palm Tree" Pat Connor, photo courtesy Palm Tree Pat Facebook page.

"I'm devastated. It's full of stuff that can't be replaced without ordering more out of Florida and it was basically my livelihood. There's probably 100 trees in there," said Connor, who was out eating breakfast at a local restaurant when the fire broke out.

Firefighters said the shed was a complete loss. Fighting the fire was exacerbated by problems with a water main, forcing fire fighters to string a hose across the highway to battle the blaze.

U.S. 61 was closed entirely for a time between Iowa Highway 22 and the Interstate 280 interchange. All but one northbound lane were reopened by 11:15 a.m.