FORREST CITY, AR (abc24.com) - Forrest City fire investigators believe someone was behind a fire that destroyed buildings more than 100 years old.
The fire happened more than two weeks ago in the heart of the city where Nathan Bedford Forrest built a railroad in the 1800's.
Firefighters aren't the only ones who believe someone burned down the buildings.
Forrest City Mayor Larry Bryant was inside one of the buildings with a code enforcement officer a week before the fire. He says there was evidence that people had been going in and out of the abandoned building.
A vault is the only thing still standing after the Forrest City fire. It was housed in a bank that relocated years ago.
While the cause of the fire is undetermined, Assistant Fire Chief Anthony Renigar has a good idea what started it.
“We know somebody started that fire. We don't know if it was intentionally set or accidentally set,” Renigar said.
Even so investigators won't call it arson. No one confessed to burning down the building and no one saw anyone in the act.
Investigators say the fire started in an abandoned building which had no gas or electricity.
“Old buildings don't have sprinkler systems in them, they're dried out and we had a lot of openings in the building which give it a lot of air and it went up quickly,” Renigar said.
“All that was in flames over there, there was boiling out of the tree tops you could see it way before I got downtown,” Dianne Cook described.
Cook was one of many Forrest City residents to watch pieces of local history go up in smoke. The buildings stood in the heart of town since the late 19th century.
“To see these structures go down it is kind of sad, it’s a sinking feeling you don't get back,” Cook said.
Another two weeks could pass before the pile of debris is removed at the expense of property owners.
The estimated cost to rebuild the properties that were destroyed by the fire is more than a million dollars.