Fire Destroys Downtown Buildings in Arkansas

FORT SMITH, Ark. --

Fort Smith dispatchers said fire crews were called out to a large fire at 10th Street and Garrison Avenue just before 5 a.m. Monday.

Police said the fire started at the Boomerang Cafe and quickly spread to the building next door. Dispatchers said the buildings had businesses on the bottom and apartments above. Firefighters said nobody was living in those apartments and that they were converted to office space.

Officials said no one was inside the buildings when the fire broke out.

"These buildings, you know, of course they're real old. They go up quick; you've got the old timber in them," Skip Mathews, a battalion chief for the Fort Smith Fire Department, said.

No one was injured, but police said the buildings are a total loss.

"Little smoke damage, a little roof damage, probably from them shooting water across the roof. We'll know later. I'm not worried about it right now; we'll talk to the insurance company and see what they've got to say," Don Conner, a building owner next door, said.

Conner said the fire is a blow to the redevelopment effort and that it would be hard to save the old structures.

"They won't be able to do anything about it. They're the old lime, mortar construction they don't have portland in the cement that holds the bricks together. It's a soft composition, and it's questionable to whether if they'll be able to save the walls, they possibly could, but it's going to be cost-prohibitive. It's a very expensive process to fix that," Conner said.

The fire is under investigation. Because of the storms that blew through Sunday night and Monday morning, the fire marshal's office said it isn't ruling out lightning as a cause of the fire.

Garrison Avenue from 10th Street and Rogers Avenue to Ninth Street was reopened Monday morning.

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