Crews begin surveying fire damage, families living in affected neighborhood able return home

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- More than 40 investigators from the fire and police department, along with the ATF, will be in Overland Park Tuesday to begin determining exactly what caused the massive fire that destroyed two apartment complexes still under construction and 17 homes.

A news conference is set for 11 a.m. Firefighters are expected to issue and update then. FOX 4 will be live streaming from the news conference.

Food was brought to the scene to make sure firefighters were fueled to continue fighting this massive fire.

Overnight, firefighters continued to douse hot spots with water.

At one point, a dozen fire departments from the metro all came together to help put out these fires.

They are putting water not only on these apartments, but also putting out any flare ups from the 17 homes also destroyed by fire.

The fire started around 3:30 p.m. Monday as construction workers worked on this apartment complex. The four-story apartment complex where the fire started is part of the CityPlace development.

CityPlace is described as a "90-acre mixed use development located in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kansas in Johnson County. ... CityPlace features four office buildings totaling 600,250 square feet on 26 acres, 1,382 multi-family units on 39 acres, 39,860 square feet of retail space on 6 acres and 140 senior living units."

On its website, CityPlace describes itself as:
"....a vibrant mixed-use community that provides residents the opportunity to live, work and play in one energetic and connected neighborhood. CityPlace features commercial office buildings, residences, retail shops and landscaped trails for those who enjoy an active lifestyle."

All construction workers were all able to get out safely as firefighters rushed to contain the fire.

But a strong wind and dry conditions caused smoldering debris to rain down on a nearby neighborhood.

Seventeen houses also caught fire, and firefighters struggled to get these fires out quickly.

As relief crews showed up, some firefighters were able to take a moment to refuel with food brought to the scene.

At one point, there were more than 50 fire trucks at the scene, everyone working to put out the flames.

Three firefighters ended up suffering minor injuries, but no one else was hurt.

Some at the scene said they heard an explosion before seeing the fire, but Overland Park officials say it's still too early to determine exactly what caused it.

Jason Rhodes with the Overland Park Fire Department

Jason Rhodes with the Overland Park Fire Department said this is the biggest fire anyone in the Overland Park fire department has ever experienced, and investigating it will take a tremendous amount of manpower as each fire needs to be investigated separately.

That's 19 total fires - two apartment complexes under construction  and 17 homes - so it could take days to find out exactly how all this started.

"There were all kinds of reports yesterday of gas odors and explosions and that is not uncommon when you get a fire, especially a fire of this magnitude, and much of that is likely the result of the fire, not necessarily the cause of the fire," Rhodes said.

Firefighters worked around the clock to keep the massive fire that destroyed two apartment complexes and multiple homes under control.

Streets in the neighborhood affected by the fire are expected to remained closed until investigators have time to look through the neighborhood. It is not clear when people who live in the affected homes will be allowed back into their neighborhood.

Law enforcement has been patrolling the area throughout the night to ensure things are safe.

Block Real Estate made arrangement for families without a place to stay. Also, Christ Lutheran Church helped others arrange hotel room.

This resident also helps save some pets inside a burning home.

Long before the smoke cleared, neighbors went into action helping each other. They were knocking on doors, pulling out their water hoses and rescuing pets.

Phil McPherson was working at home as he watched  his roof catch fire. He believes his house is a total loss, but he is thankful he and his two cats made it out safely.

"I just thought the fire would be contained in the apartment complex, and I ran across the street and told a couple of neighbors, 'hey the grass is on fire, it’s moving toward your house.' I thought that’s all we had to worry about."

Bobby Chavez told FOX 4 he watched a house burn very close to his.

"I’m in shock right now, total shock," Chavez said. "How it all spread out real, took off in a minute."

Since 4 p.m. Monday, 30 minutes after the fire was reported "Taking it to the Streets" was on-scene. They've handed out 1,200 bottles of water, 900 bottles of Gatorade, hundreds of cups of coffee, meals along with protein bars, granola bars, chips and snacks. They've also provided on-site bathrooms for first responders.

 

FOX 4 has a crew on the scene. Look for reports on FOX 4 newscasts.