About 50 people had to be evacuated from the Motel 6 in Van Buren after a heating vent caused the building to catch fire early Thursday morning.

Van Buren firefighters responded to a call at 12:45 a.m. Thursday of a fire at the Motel 6 at 1716 Fayetteville Road, said Fire Marshal Stanley Clark.

It was more than nine hours before firefighters were able to put out the blaze and clean up. They left the motel at about 10:15 a.m., Clark said.

When firefighters first arrived, they found a heating and air vent on fire, Clark said.

Located close to the floor, the vent allowed the fire to spread between the first and second stories’ sub-flooring, up the wall and into the attic, Clark said.

The motel was built in 1973, Clark said, and though a new roof had been added, the old, flat tar roof was still in place, Clark said.

"That’s what made it real tough to fight," Clark said. "It’s pretty difficult to put that stuff out."

Between the old roof and new was an open attic with no fire stops, Clark said. The motel also had no fire walls between sections, no sprinkler system and only a partial alarm system, he said.

Motel staff and firefighters immediately evacuated the 50 people staying in the motel, with a portion moving to the Super 8 across the street and the rest checking out, Clark said.

There were no major injuries reported during the fire, Clark said.

Fort Smith Fire Department assisted with the blaze, bringing a second ladder truck to help fight the fire on the upper level, Clark said.

Damage to the motel is extensive, but total costs are hard to gauge, Clark said. The roof is completely collapsed into the second floor. The lower floors may be salvageable, but Clark said he thought it was a total loss.