Neighbor recalls helping people escape south KC house fire that claimed toddler’s life

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One south Kansas City neighborhood is in a state of grief.

Authorities have yet to release the name of a toddler who died in a house fire late Sunday. A Kansas City Fire spokesperson said a 2-year-old boy died from smoke inhalation, despite a frantic effort by first-responders to save him.

Overwhelming grief looms around the block at 102nd and Wheeling. Kansas City firefighters found the child's body in the house's front room on Sunday. KCFD Deputy Chief Jimmy Walker said that child was pronounced dead at a nearby emergency room.

All that's left on the lot is a burned-out shell -- and a family experiencing untold anguish.

"I'm devastated. I was in horror," a next-door neighbor, who asked for his name to remain anonymous, told FOX4. "It's fully engulfed. Black smoke is rolling. I said, 'Is everyone out of the house?" and she screamed a little bit."

That neighbor said the house was fully engulfed in flames, and he helped kick out two of the house's windows, allowing two people inside to escape. Others evacuated the house on their own, except for one. The family's name hasn't been made public, and Kansas City fire officials don't know yet what caused the home to burn.

"I went back over there, and the young lady panicked. Her baby was in the house. My heart just sank," the neighbor said. "You'd have had to access front door to get to him. There was so much smoke. Black smoke just pouring out."

"When we arrived, we found no working smoke detectors in the house," Walker said. "We feel for the family of that 2-year old. It's a horrible situation. It's what we get paid to do. We don't want to ever see it happen."

Walker, who has worked as a first responder for more than 20 years, reminded everyone that smoke detectors can save lives.

He said KCFD firefighters offer a program that offers free smoke detectors. Walker said officers will even install it at your home at no cost.

"Having a working smoke detector increases your chance for survival by over half. I don't know if it would have made a difference last night, but it's an inexpensive way to really increase your odds of survival in a house fire," Walker said.

Family members visited the home several times on Monday, helping salvage items and offering support for one another. One of that toddler's grown cousins said she was too grief-stricken to explain her feelings, and the family asked for the public's prayers during this dark hour.

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