Crittenden Regional Hospital evacuated after fire

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CRITTENDEN COUNTY, Ark. -- People in Crittenden County are without a hospital, even if they have an emergency.

A devastating fire Friday morning forced the hospital to partially shut down.

Thankfully, no one was hurt, although we're told between 15 and 20 patients were transferred to hospitals in Memphis.

“I could smell the fire from where I was,” said Linda Murray, who was inside Crittenden Regional visiting her sister.

Murray said she spotted nurses running down the hall.

“I was scared and I thought I was going to die!” said Murray.

Hospital workers whisked Murray and everyone else on this side of the hospital to safety.

The hospital's powerful sprinkling system drenched the flames right away, but that set off another problem for the hospital.

“We've got water damage as soon as you walk through the front door. We've got ceiling times that fell. There is water leaking from the ceiling. When you go upstairs, there's still the odor of the smoke,” said Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Jones.

For now, the hospital's Emergency, Radiology and Surgery Departments are all shut down. It may be that way for weeks.

Crittenden Regional isn’t taking any more patients.

There is no word on what caused the fire.

“It's no secret our hospital has been in financial trouble,” said Jones.

Money problems could force the hospital to shut down permanently.

Jones said Friday morning's crippling fire is just a glimpse of what could happen if the hospital closes, forcing everyone to drive over the river and into Memphis.

“I'm sure y'all know the bridges sometimes, you can't always get through. We need something over here really bad. This community, this county, this side of the river, without a hospital will be bad for all of us,” said Jones.

Fire investigators think it’s just a coincidence this fire comes weeks before the county is to hold a special election to raise more money for Crittenden Regional. It's a proposed penny sales tax hike to keep the doors open.

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