Fire damage inspires man to reach out and help strangers

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Leaking gas is likely to blame for a fire that injured several people in Overland Park. The three-alarm fire and explosion happened Tuesday at the Metcalf 56 apartments. A fire department spokesman said a gas line was turned on Tuesday, and that some of the gas likely leaked out and was ignited a furnace or other flash source.

Right now they're calling the fire accidental. A city spokesman said the complex passed a fire safety inspection earlier this year. The fire left several people without a home, but they're getting help from more than 60 miles away to the north.

The images of burned out apartments and bewilders tenants, it's something Leonard Richardson won't likely forget.

"It really hit me hard. It really did. I woke up at 4 o'clock this morning and thought I got to do something," Richardson said.

What Leonard did was start Operation Reach Out, an effort to collect needed items for people he's never even met miles away in overland park.

“We've got some gloves, and we've got some scarves," he said.

Richardson works maintenance at Gene Field Apartments on Gene Field Road in St. Joe. He reached out to his fellow  employees to put together a letter, which went on the doors of dozens of their tenants, letting them know about "Operation Reach Out."

"I knew I could reach out to a lot of tenants here and time like this I'm sure people can really reach deep into their hearts and find something they can give to people who are worse off than they are,” he said.

Folks donated clothing, food, hygiene products; even toys to replace Christmas presents that might have been lost in the fire. Richardson plans to drive the items down himself. Along with the care packages, he sends his words of encouragement.

"I can't imagine what you're going through. I just hope this is enough. I know it's not going to be enough, but my heart reaches out to you,” Richardson said.

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