Fire at Former Arkansas Military Hospital Accidental

August 15, 2011

A blaze that destroyed more than 100 historic buildings at the old Fort Chaffee hospital has been ruled accidental, Fort Smith fire investigators said.

Fire Marshal Chris Driggers told KFSM-TV that the investigation into the Aug. 3 fire at Chafee Crossing has found “no indications” it was intentionally set. He said discarded smoking materials were likely to blame.

The fire charred 90 acres and consumed 110 unoccupied buildings at the former hospital, which was used by the U.S. Army when the post was an active military installation. No injuries were reported and no homes were in danger.

The Department of Defense transferred the hospital and 7,000 acres of land to the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority in 1998 after the Base Closure and Realignment Commission closed the active part of the post, authority executive director Ivy Owen has said. An additional 77,000 acres were leased back to the Arkansas National Guard.

The authority had planned to demolish the buildings in a few years and reuse the land for an office complex and for mixed use development, Owen said.

Owen has estimated clean-up could cost about $600,000 to rid the environment of the asbestos and lead-laden debris.

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