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Families now homeless after flying hot embers set fire to more than a dozen Overland Park houses

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Several Overland Park families are now homeless, after flaming embers from a massive apartment fire sparked blazes at more than a dozen nearby homes.

The eight-alarm fire broke out just after 3:30 p.m. at CityPlace, a multimillion-dollar mixed use development near College Boulevard and Nieman Road.

The complex was destroyed, while strong winds blew embers onto roofs and set fire to at least 17 homes in a nearby neighborhood.

The billowing smoke from all directions caught curious eyes.

“I’m in shock right now, total shock,” said Bobby Chavez, who lives just yards from the complex.

“How it all spread out, took off in a minute...It was just a big gulf of smoke, the fire, the flames were shooting all over.”

No one got hurt, but most homeowners considered the damage to their wooden homes to be a total loss due to fire, smoke and water damage.

“It’s just a disaster for everybody in the neighborhood,” said Phil McPherson, whose home caught fire.

McPherson was working from home when he saw the complex fire and came outside to get a closer look.

“The next thing I saw was these flaming embers flying through the air,” he said, “and it was like, we have a serious problem.”

“I saw the embers starting to hit the roof and starting to smolder and catch on fire,” he continued, “and so I tried to grab a hose and spray the roof, and then I tried to get up on the roof and it was slick. I actually fell off the roof.”

McPherson said he only had time to grab one of his two cats before his house went up in flames.

“It’s a neighborhood in shock, that’s exactly what it is,” he said. “We’re just devastated that us and our neighbors are just basically homeless now.”

McPherson and his girlfriend were relieved when firefighters reunited them with their second cat. They sad they feel thankful, despite everything else they’ve now lost.

“I’m very depressed,” he said, “but at the same time, we’re both alive. We’re both healthy. We can recover from this. That’s the most important thing.”