One year later, looking back at worst fire in Overland Park history

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — It was one year ago that a fire, which started at an apartment building under construction, ripped through an Overland Park neighborhood, catching 17 homes on fire and damaging many more.

The Royale at City Place is where the biggest, hottest, most out of control fire in the history of Overland Park took place.

The best description of that fire came from a firefighter when Congressman Yoder came to visit and asked, “what was it like that day?

“DJ, one of our firefighters, his response was, 'have you ever read the Book of Revelation?'” said Overland Park Fire Department Media Manager Jason Rhodes. “That is a pretty good description. It was like something of Biblical proportions.”

Firefighters call it the fire of a lifetime. Lt. Ben Grimsley was on the ground, trying to prevent the fire from spreading to more nearby homes and buildings.

“The amount of devastation we had there with the houses that were burning, I have never seen anything quite  like that before,” Grimley said. “It was absolutely amazing.”

Heat intense enough to melt parts of fire trucks and smoldering embers caught by the wind, lit up neighboring homes for more than a mile.

Vencislav Parvinov watched as the fire threatened his home.

“I was here watching it and like literally like, 'ok, that is all I have and it is going to be gone,' but no. I got lucky. I got really lucky," Vencislav Parvinov said.

Parvinov said he felt helpless when his neighbors' houses were on fire, sure his was next. Several firefighters showed up in his back yard, fighting to save his home. He said if it wasn’t for them, his house would have been destroyed.

“That’s awesome. That’s what we are here for,” said firefighter Tyler Thompson when he heard about Parvinov’s gratitude. “We are able to keep the customers happy and I am glad that it is a situation where we made a big difference to him.”

It has been a long and frustrating recovery. Some residents moved back into their homes for just a few weeks ago. Debbie Grimley, who lives directly behind the fire scene, moved home about two months ago.

The only thing left of her house after the fire was the shell of the main floor. Everything else was gone. The devastation caused by heat from the raging apartment fire and embers that landed on her home.

For 10 months, Foster was bounced around from place to place while dealing with contractors and insurance companies to get her home back.

“Stressful, frustrating, hopeful, “said Foster of the last year. “I would like to say it was exciting but it really was a very long, process. It was kind of tough.”

Among the thick black smoke and rubble of their homes, Foster said there was a ray of light.

“I think it made some of the neighbors closer which was really good,” said Foster. “And a lot of us have gotten to know each other that maybe didn’t before. It was hard for everybody, really hard.”

There is one lot that still remains untouched after the fire, construction workers are rebuilding the apartment building at the Royale at City Place where this whole mess started. The building is in the same state of construction it was a year ago when it caught fire, and that concerns residents who worry that it could happen again.

It was a welding torch that caused the fire. Officials say the construction company is no longer conducting hot work on site. They are doing it off-site and bringing those pieces in after construction and installing them.