Frustration flares as investigation into cause of massive Harrisonville apartment complex fire begins

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HARRISONVILLE, Mo. -- Frustration flared Friday outside of an apartment complex that was heavily damaged by fire Thursday night.

As investigators arrived to the scene to begin their investigation into what caused the massive fire, several tenants showed up with hopes of getting back in their apartments to try to salvage what they can.

Investigators tell FOX 4 that fire damaged five buildings at the Twin Oaks Apartments and destroyed at least one and they are currently not safe for anyone to enter.

"Because of the structural damage of the building from last night's fire, at this we're unable to enter the building, which greatly hampers our ability to figure that question of what started the fire out,"Harrisonville Police Department Lt. Christ Osterberg said.

Investigators with the Missouri State Fire Marshal's Office are leading the investigation.

Investigators say the fire broke out around 4 p.m. Thursday and  forced 59 people from their apartments initially, and left 27 homeless.

"All I could think of is my work stuff burned" Stuart Tompkins said. "I figure I can get some more stuff. I don't know. Just one day at a time."

Harrisonville families leaning on each other after suffering massive losses in apartment fire

Dozens of firefighters spent seven hours at the scene pouring lots of water on the major apartment fire.

Two firefighters were treated at the scene for minor burns.

Video shot by a FOX 4 viewer shows the flames erupting from one of the buildings.

Acting Harrisonville Fire Chief Eric Myler confirmed firefighters were called on a problem with a chimney earlier Thursday. Neighbors said a resident put plastic in the chimney along with wood chips.

The blaze that followed firefighters leaving spread to surrounding buildings.

“They had pieces of embers from main fire fall on the roofs, this buildings as you can see have wood slats and roof is wood slat also, so when the hot embers landed on them they sparked small fires,” Harrisonville Fire Investigator Lt. Chris Osterberg said.

On Friday, Osterberg said they cannot say what officially started the fire but they are also not ruling out embers from a fireplace.

Firefighters from as many as nine different departments battled the blaze. Major operations ended about five hours later, though a handful of firefighters remained on scene past 10 p.m. No one was hurt.

The Red Cross helped 59 residents who were evacuated from the five buildings and took them to a local church for warmth and food.

Those from the other four apartment buildings were allowed to return home Thursday night while the 11 families who lost everything stayed at a hotel.

The damage estimate currently stands at $550,000.

FOX 4's Robert Townsend will have more from the tenants on FOX 4 news at 5 and 6 p.m.