Warming fire may be to blame for massive fire that burned two historic buildings near 18th and Vine

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City firefighters continue to battle hot spots after flames engulfed two historical buildings early Thursday morning.

The fire broke out around 4:50 a.m. one block from 18th and Vine along Vine Street at a building directly across the street from Club Mardi Gras, a jazz club. The fire then spread to a second building. As of 8:30 a.m. flames could still be seen coming from one of the buildings as firefighters continued to battle hot spots.

Heavy flames could be seen pouring from the building around 5:30 a.m.

Heavy flames could be seen pouring from the building around 5:30 a.m.

Firefighters pouring water into the building and on nearby trees to help prevent the fire from spreading.

Firefighters pouring water into the building and on nearby trees to help prevent the fire from spreading.

The roofs of the burned out buildings are flat tar pitched, which helped fuel the fire as embers floated down on the roof. Trees and grass growing on the roof also hurt the situation, firefighters say.

"It was going top to bottom, front to back, and we showed up we started fly piping to get it knocked down," Mike Cashen with the Kansas City Fire Department said. "But the embers got up and got in this other building, which is pretty dilapidated, as well. The roof membrane was already broken through several places. There's grass and trees growing on the roof so the embers got down inside and got it going."

Firefighters battled the blaze from outside

Cashen says firefighters had to fight the fire from outside because going inside is too dangerous.

Both of the buildings had been previously posted on the city's dangerous buildings list.

"We're not gonna put any crews inside the building," Cashen said. "It's way too dangerous and could come down on its own."

He says when temperatures are below freezing, ice becomes a problem, but he adds that crews on the scene have ice melt to help prevent slippery conditions for crews on the scene.

"This isn't too bad," Cashen said. "That's when it gets down below zero is when it's a vicious, but everybody's prepared for it."

The cause

The official cause of the fire is still under investigation, but the fire chief on the scene says a warming fire may be to blame.

"It looks like it was a warming fire," Cashen said. "Indigent folks were living in the building, the investigators are checking it out, they said they found a person inside the building trying to stay warm, and it obviously got out a hand on them. That's why we don't allow warming fires in Kansas City."


One woman was taken to the hospital with burns on her hands.She was inside the first building as it caught on fire.

Historical significance of the burned buildings

Robert Altman's film "Kansas City" was shot in the area, and some of the movie's facades that were left up to add history to the area burned during the fire. "Kansas City" was a film about jazz and politics in the 20s and 30s. FOX 4's Kathy Quinn was an extra in the film. Altman, a Kansas City native, went to Southwest High School. His son Stephen was the set director for the film.

The future of 18th and Vine

Just this week city officials announced they've raised enough money to completely finance the construction of the Urban Youth Academy in an effort to revive baseball in Kansas City`s urban core.

An indoor facility will now be built along with the baseball and softball fields already under construction.

Once completed this fall, the Urban Youth Academy will provide free uniforms, free equipment and free instruction to young inner city athletes who want to learn the game of baseball.

Officials hope the millions of dollars spent on this project will spark even more economic development at 18th and Vine.

There is also a redevelopment project that's moving forward in the Jazz District. The City Council approved $7-million to pay for it. A building on the southeast corner of 18th Street and The Paseo was torn down in hopes of attracting a developer who will bring new shops and apartments to the area. The revitalization effort also includes rehabbing the Boone Theater at 18th and Highland streets.

City officials hope parking and other improvements will make the area more attractive as a place to live, as well.

Local building owner weighs in

Former member of the KC Film Commission Butch Rigby owns several buildings around Kansas City. He says 18th Street is a wonderful connector street, and he believes the district will soon be revitalized.

"There's a lot of great things going on down there now," Rigby said.