Friday, August 5, 2011

Chaffee Burns Again

Fort Chaffee is on fire again. According to officials, a couple of off duty reservists were carousing in the abandoned hospital complex in Chaffee Crossing when the fire started and may have knowledge of its origins. They are being question by the officials from National Guard and the local fire marshal. The response time was fast...

nine minutes for the closest fire station and only a few minutes longer for the rest or the city's stations.  That's very quick, but not fast enough. Including the hospital complex, over 120 buildings burned to the ground.

For those of you not familiar with the environs of what was once Fort Chaffee,
Summer 2009

it is comprised of hundreds of clear cut acres of grass where most of the installation's housing and infrastructure buildings were built. When you put that together with a drought, several weeks of 100+ temperatures, and a large number of dilapidated, WOODEN structures, you have a fire waiting to happen.

December 29, 2007
This not the first time this has happened. In 2008, over 150 barracks buildings in a similar grass/building fire. There are still those who think that the cause for that one may have been arson, but given the state of the wooden structures and the tons of burnable tinder around them, I find the possibility of a negligent cigarette or some other random occurrence far more likely.

Around the same time period, large sections of Fort Chaffee were given to the cities of Fort Smith and Barling for development. One of these sections became Chaffee Crossing. Ironically, twenty-two hours before the fire started, many of the historic World War II in Chaffee Crossing had been accepted into the Historic Preservation Program. However, there are two silver linings to this: first, nobody was hurt by the fire. With a fire this big, that is no small blessing. Also, the cost of the clean up will be significantly lower than the projected cost of renovating the period hospital complex. Perhaps the difference in cost could be earmarked for the preservation of remaining historic Chaffee buildings and preventative measures for future potential fires. It's an idea.

Fort Chaffee, Summer 2009

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