Authorities Investigate Why Fort Washita Burns Down - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Authorities Investigate Why Fort Washita Burns Down

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BRYAN COUNTY--Tourists and park volunteers can hardly believe a piece of Civil War history is nothing but ashes now.

The Oklahoma State Fire Marshall is currently investigating the scene. A cause is still uncertain.
Officials are speculating the fire could have been caused by something from inside the building, or even arson.

Either way, locals are devastated that the popular site has disappeared.

After the Civil War, Fort Washita burned to the ground. No one knows for sure how it happened. Authorities are trying to solve last weekend's mystery of why it burned down again.

"You hear that history repeats itself," Ron Petty said, Fort Washita Historical Interpreter. "That building is pretty much like it was when the state took it over."

Joe Mabry was a volunteer at Fort Washita before the barracks were rebuilt in the 1970s. To him, seeing the structure like this is surreal.      

"It was shock," Joe Mabry said, Fort Washita volunteer. "That was the only thing I can say. I didn't want to believe it because it was so much a part of me--so much of the fort. I heard someone else say, 'It's the heart of the fort."

The white building that attracted field trips and tourists was the center of ghost stories and historical reenactments. Park volunteers aren't sure when it can be that place again.   

"It's kinda like you lost a good friend," Petty said. "When you deal with that and look at it and admire it and show it to people for nine years, it's kinda sad to know that it's not there.

The Oklahoma State Fire Marshal's Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Bryan County Sheriff's office are investigating the scene. If the case is arson, the suspect could be facing felony charges.

"It's tougher," James Simmons said, Oklahoma Fire Marshal. "It's something that even the deputies here came as children--as young kids--with the boy scouts, and they also do Civil War reenactments here so it's going to be hard to replace."

Volunteers are trying to see if the state will allow the site to be rebuilt. With state budget constraints, they're not sure.

"It can be restored," Mabry said. "Like I said, it looked exactly like that the first time I saw it [. . .] I don't know how the state authorities are going to react to this. I have no idea how the historical society is going to treat it."

Though the building has been reduced to rubble, the memories have not.

The investigation could take all Monday afternoon or well into the week. Damages are estimated to be anywhere between $1 and $2 million dollars.

Jen French, KTEN News