ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Less than two weeks after the old St. Ann’s Hospital suffered major damage from an overnight structure fire, a second fire Tuesday morning destroyed what was left.
“This building has stood for the better part of a century. It has been abandoned for about a quarter century,” said Habitat for Humanity Abilene CEO, Rosten Callarman.
The property was donated to Habitat earlier in the year, with plans to demolish the already crumbling structure and build affordable single-family homes on the lots. Callarman told KTAB/KRBC the past two fires are reminders that change needs to happen and soon.
“I hope that what Abilene sees here is an opportunity to join together, to build something better, and to not just stop once we’ve torn this building down and put something better in its place,” Callarman offered. “But to build enough affordable housing that we don’t need to worry about trying to create programs out of abandoned buildings any more. Which is what other companies have been trying to do for years with this building.”
Some neighbors mentioned homeless inhabitants as a possible cause for both fires. While this has not been confirmed, the Abilene Fire Department (AFD) did say in a statement that “non authorized individuals have stayed there in the past.”
Even if that’s what investigators find as the origin, Callarman said he holds no ill will towards the party responsible.
“I want to make this very clear. A lot of times, people will speak very condescendingly about folks that are in that kind of a situation. I mean it got below 50 last night… So if someone was in there trying to stay warm last night, I don’t have any hard feelings for them. I’m not upset with them. They were just trying to take care of themselves,” said Callarman.
Elise Roberts with AFD also said, “With all of the attention surrounding this location and multiple fires, the investigators will be working on leads for the next few days/week. At this time we don’t have any additional information that can be released.”