Accidental Fire Sends Four to the Hospital

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BUTLER, Mo. -- An overnight fire at a home here sends four people to the hospital, and leaves the house severely damaged. Investigators say the fire, which started in the kitchen, appears to have been an accident.

Firefighters were called to the home in Butler, about 65 miles south of Kansas City, just after midnight on Wednesday.  Two adults and two children from the same family are hospitalized following the fire. Tammy Pickens is worried about her neighbors, the Simms family.

"Oh, they are wonderful people," Pickens said. "We watch for each other. They are just wonderful people. Just God bless them."

Pickens says she saw smoke billowing from the home and members of the family running outside. She says the head of the household, James Simms, Sr., suffered injuries after repeatedly returning to the house to get people out and trying to rescue family pets. Pickens says two teens also suffered injuries after going back inside the burning home to help others.

"The kindergartener, they weren't sure where she was, so the two teenagers went back in to find her," Pickens said.  "They tried to get back out, but they had too much smoke. It's my knowledge that they fell off the roof trying to get back out because they had too much smoke."

Pickens says ambulance crews rushed the youngest, 6-year-old Sara Simms, to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, where she's in fair condition. Two teens who tried to help her: 14-year-old Dakota Simms and 19-year-old James Simms, Jr., were airlifted to hospitals along with their father, James Senior. Three others escaped the fire unharmed.

"We saw it, it was all engulfed in flames at first and we were like what's going on," said neighbor Krista Itzen.

The fire chief says crews from Adrian and Rich Hill helped extinguish the blaze. Because of the injuries, a state fire marshal was called, but Chief Jim Henry says preliminary findings show nothing suspicious about the cause of the fire.

"The preliminary (cause) is accidental," Henry said. "He'll be making a determination after he reviews some of his photos."

Chief Henry says a decision on whether the building should be condemned will be made after insurance investigators finish their evaluation of the damage.

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