Fire Rages In Downtown Fort Scott, Kansas

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) -- A massive fire raged through Fort Scott's historic downtown Friday.

The blaze was believed to have started in the basement of a Main Street bar just before 2 p.m., City Manager Richard Nienstedt said, and quickly spread. Eight or nine buildings were believed to be in flames Friday night.

``It just makes you want to sit down and cry because this is our community,'' he said as he looked at a three-story building with the roof caved in. ``I'm looking at buildings that it looks like if you look at pictures of World War II of buildings that were bombed and burned down. It looks like that. But we are lucky, no one was hurt.''

Though no one was injured, Nienstedt said paramedics were on the scene as a precaution.

Nienstedt said 10 to 15 fire departments from surrounding communities were trying to contain the blaze. A Kansas Army National Guard helicopter continued to drop water from overhead Friday night.

``Our fire chief told me we'd be here all night,'' he said, ``at least all night.''

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

Fort Scott, about 90 miles south of Kansas City, Mo., is home to about 8,200 people and its downtown is just a few blocks long. It's made up mostly of historic brick buildings with wood interiors that are a three or four levels high and contain a mix of antique stores, restaurants and other retail shopping, as well as a dentist office.

The downtown buildings are more than 100 years old, the oldest of them 142 years old, Nienstedt said.

Nienstedt said he didn't know if any of the buildings would be habitable until the codes official had a chance to evaluate them.

``My guess is most are unstable,'' he said.

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