Firefighters slip on ice battling massive fire and frigid temperatures

BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. -- A massive wall of flames towering over a fire ladder two stories high was what Jason Conley saw Wednesday night in Blytheville.

He watched as a thrift store and apartment building across from the city's main fire station burned for hours.

"They had the boom extended all the way out and it was about that tall. I thought it was gonna catch that boy on fire, it was up so high," said Conley.

About 27 firefighters battled the flames in frigid conditions for most of the night.

At one point, they thought they had it controlled. But once flames started shooting through the roof, they had no choice but to abandon their efforts.

"It was flaming high enough, I was scared it was gonna come down this way," said Conley, who runs the Blytheville Recreation Center down the street.

Firefighters had their work cut out for them just battling the weather.

Several firefighters ended up slipping on ice and falling.

"I personally saw myself six or seven. I saw a couple of them make pretty hard contact with the ice," said Chief Mike Carney with the Blytheville Fire Department.

Hypothermia was also a concern with single digit temperatures and subzero windchills recorded in Blytheville overnight.

"Truth is the fire helps a little bit. The fire helps a little bit, but the guys monitor themselves. They know to check on each other," said Carney.

Carney said officials will never know the cause of Wednesday's fire since conditions at the building were too hazardous to conduct an investigation.

Instead, the building was demolished Thursday afternoon.

Conley isn't sad to see it go.

"Blytheville looks bad enough as it is and that place didn't make it look much better," he said.

A handful of people had to be evacuated and Carney said the Red Cross has offered assistance.