HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - Authorities believe the fire that destroyed the historic Majestic Hotel was likely set by trespassers, but the cause may never be determined because it wasn’t safe to send investigators inside the building before it was torn down, according to Hot Springs’ fire chief.
Fire Chief Ed Davis said investigators believe the Feb. 27 fire was likely set by either “urban explorers” or homeless people who were inside the abandoned building on a regular basis. The fire ravaged the 1880s-era hotel, which was vacant and boarded-up after its closure in 2006.
“Many times in Hot Springs we’ve had situations where homeless people have set fires not intending to burn the building down. They set fires to warm themselves, and something gets out of hand, and the next thing you know the building is on fire,” Davis said.
No one was injured in the blaze.
Davis said that determining the exact cause of the fire will be difficult to pinpoint, if not impossible, because he didn’t send fire marshals inside for a thorough investigation due to the structure’s deteriorating condition, The Sentinel-Record reported (http://bit.ly/1g5npsz ). Firefighters fought the blaze from outside the hotel for the same reason, he said.
“The bottom line on it is, I have two fire marshals who are highly trained and I have a lot of affection for those guys, and … I have to treat them with the same amount of protection and the same amount of respect I do my firefighters,” he said. “So, if I’m not going to put my firefighters into the building prior to the fire, or during the fire, I’m sure not going to let my fire marshals to go into the building after the fire.”
Authorities said the building was uninsured. The structure was torn down last weekend, and the city is working with the building’s owner on a debris cleanup plan.
“The building was unsafe prior to that fire. I didn’t allow my people to go in that building and do inspections. I didn’t allow my people to go in the building for any reason … the building was a threat to the community before the fire,” Davis said.
Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com