Fire Chief: Fort Smith Hotel Shutdown After Fire

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- The Best Western Aspen Hotel is closed following a fire Thursday evening (March 22), according to Chief Teddy Abbey with the Fort Smith Fire Department.

The hotel will be shutdown for the next six to eight months while it undergoes renovations and repairs, according to general manager Amanda Grant. Grant said that water damage is the main source of problems, and the entire roof will have to be replaced. The hotel will have to gut and renovate seven rooms.

The fire started at the hotel, which is located on South 68th street behind the Chili's, around 6 p.m.

Employees said everyone was able to get out of the building safely, and no one was injured. Firefighters said the fire started outside and went up the side of the building to the roof. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

According to Abbey, the hotel sustained water damage to the second floor and fire damage to the roof.

All of the guests were transferred to the Quality Inn in Fort Smith, according to the desk manager there.

The desk manager said they were able to handle the influx of new guests as well as their normal reservations with no problem.

A witness reported he was the first person to notice smoke bellowing from the building.

Jaden Darnell was picking up his baseball gear near the hotel when he saw the smoke.

"I went inside and I asked the lady if she knew the building was on fire and she said, "No," and called the fire department," Darnell said.

He said he and his mother sprang into action. "We evacuated all the rooms... we went and banged on all the doors," Darnell explained.

Richie Byrnes was also in the hotel and made it out safely.

"I had just got in there maybe 15 minutes prior and I smelled smoke. I looked out the window and saw the smoke and then I heard the alarm," Byrnes said. "I grabbed my shoes and got out of there. I wish I could've grabbed all my clothes and my work boots."