FORREST CITY (AP) — A fire that broke out at an unoccupied building in downtown Forrest City wound up destroying five buildings and caused firefighters to work overnight to bring the blaze under control.
Firefighters responded to a call at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday and were on the scene for almost 24 hours. Authorities were investigating the cause of the blaze.
Assistant Forrest City Fire Chief Anthony Renigar said the intense heat made fighting the fire more difficult.
"We had to reposition all of our equipment due to the heat and we also had to deal with explosions from within the building," Renigar told the Times-Herald of Forrest City.
Officials said the heat destroyed a vehicle that was parked nearby, melting its headlights and grill.
Firefighters said the explosions could have been caused by a number of things, including propane tanks or paint cans.
Two of the buildings had been condemned by the city. Mayor Larry Bryant said he was inside one of the buildings last week with a code inspector and said it was obvious that vagrants had been using the building. He said the explosions could have come from chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine.
"When we came in, there was no one here but you could see that they had been in here," Renigar said. "There were efforts made to secure the building by boarding it up and such, but every time it would get boarded up they’d either take the boards down or find another way in."
Arkansas has been experiencing hot and dry conditions, which have increased the danger of wildfires. Officials said some firefighters had to leave the downtown fire to battle a brush fire that occurred nearby.
"While we were trying to fight this mess down here, guys had to leave the scene to go and assist with a grass fire out near the old Players Club where someone set two acres on fire and burned down a shed," Renigar said. "I know we don’t have a burn ban on right now, but it would really be nice if people avoided outside burning until we at least get a good rain."