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Before smoke clears, Overland Park neighbors already banding together to help

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A massive apartment complex lay in ruins and at least 17 homes were damaged, but the community quickly found a way to come together and spread hope.

The Ballentine community was forced into their front yards after the remnants of an 8-alarm fire dropped into their back yards.

"I heard like a big boom, and I don't know what it was and all of a sudden my wife, she's like, 'hey, there's a huge fire outside,'" said resident Tarnu Mulbah.

Hot embers set several of the wood-shingled roofs on fire. Ray Marshall was one of several homeowners who tried to protect his home as best as he could.

He got out his garden hose and sprayed down his house, so try and prevent any raining embers from catching his home on fire.

"I hope that there's new codes that you can't have wood shingle houses because that's just ... a recipe for disaster obviously," Rebekah Mulbah said.

While firefighters worked to protect homes and the residents, the community stepped up to make sure they took care of fire crews.

"You can tell that these firefighters are thirsty, and it's awesome to see everyone in the community bring cups of water, bottled water. I saw a little kid with a bucket of water, you know, for these firefighters. These guys are awesome, Tarnu said. "It's amazing to see everyone come together in a time of crisis."

Over the last few hours, residents were seen with bags ready packed to leave because power has been shut off in the area. Several streets were also closed off near the scene.

Whether it was people bringing in bottled water by the case load or even the garden hose, before the smoke had cleared, the community was already banding together.

"If somebody's house did start on fire, you don't want to say, 'oh, I could've been there.' You want to say, 'I did something.'"

As people in neighborhoods surrounding the massive blaze at CityPlace apartment complex scrambled for their safety, a couple Spring Breakers visiting Kansas City headed toward the action.

"We actually had to park probably a mile from here or so, and we walked in, and we had to cross a ravine."

The two young men walked house to house with a garden hose trying to prevent fires from spreading to homes that already damaged a dozen others.

"We've seen how good things can bring together Kansas City, but even the bad, everyone comes together and does what's right for each other."

As firefighters buzzed in and out battling the 8-alarm fire, they had water to drink by the carload, as neighbor after neighbor dropped off supplies at Christ Lutheran Church.

"The more that we can do as a community, the better. Kind of bringing the community together, especially for something like this, thinking about everybody that doesn't have a house to go to."

It was certainly a tremendous outpouring of support. Assisted living centers in the area have already stepped up to provide transportation, lodging, whatever these folks needed.