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Overland Park Fire Dept. answers the ‘What happened?” and ‘What now?’ questions

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. --  The day after the eight-alarm fire at the multimillion-dollar CityPlace development in Overland Park, Kansas, firefighters are reflecting on the battle they faced and the losses suffered by the people they protect.

The apartment complex under construction at CityPlace was the first to go up into flames on Monday at about 3:30 p.m. Then the intense heat caused neighboring homes to catch fire. Once one roof caught fire, embers jumped from roof to roof, spreading the blaze, said Overland Park Fire Department spokesman Jason Rhodes.

"It's a bit of a war zone down there frankly," Rhodes said. No serious injuries were reported, although one firefighter suffered a minor injury, he said.

On Tuesday during an 11 a.m. news conference, Overland Park Fire Chief Bryan Dehner said 17 to 22 houses were affected by the fire that started at CityPlace.

Dehner said his number one goal on Tuesday was to get residence back in their home for some 'semblance of stability' in their lives.

For those who can't go back to their homes because they are too damaged, "we are working with them on a case-by-case basis to make sure that we can get them in there, get their essentials, checkbooks, wallets, car keys, those types of things, get that secured and then again, make sure their insurance companies are starting the ball rolling," Dehner said.

FOX 4's Shannon O'Brien asked Dehner about the 'boom' or explosion people reported hearing around the time that the fire started.

"The explosion is my understanding would be a result of the fire. It was not the cause of the fire," said Dehner.

When embers started flying through the nearby neighborhood after the fire broke out, residents took their cars out of their garages in case they needed to flee.

FOX 4 asked about the concerns and complaints among some neighbors who felt firefighters did not provide enough resources to protect their homes. Dehner answered that although it wasn't the answer some wanted to hear, firefighters had to draw a line in the sand.

"In the situation we were dealing with with fire brands going all the way to 119th Street, our line in the sand was 119th Street where we had Lawrence, KCK, KCMO coming in to fill that perimeter. The collateral damage between here and 119th Street included many people's homes that we just wanted to make for sure didn't get behind us," he said. "The reality is we kept the line at 119th Street and worked backward from here."

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As for the investigation, the fire department said they have a lot of investigators at the scenes who have been working since the fire started.

"They have their theories and they're working their process and we're not in a position to give that information out now," said Overland Park Fire Chief Bryan Dehner. "The investigations are going on and police have a perimeter for the residential area. That is an active crime scene. Those that live in the area and have reason to be in that area are allowed to be in that area."

Dehner wanted to make clear to the public what the term 'crime scene' means.

"I don't want anyone to think that we have a, we're out looking for a firebug or anything like that. That is not the case," said Dehner.

"Basically in our vernacular that means we've secured an area for a couple of reasons. One. We don't want anyone to get hurt here. It's not a place that's safe to walk around. Two. Our investigators need to be able to do their job, both the local, state and federal investigators need to be able to move through the area without any problems. And three. We've got houses that are not able to be occupied and so having a perimeter there allows the police presence in that area to make sure the people's residences are protected," said John Ham, ATF spokesperson.