Fire severely damages house where KC family of 12 had been living without water

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A dozen people in one family are looking for a place to live after fire severely damaged their house Tuesday.

The fire broke out just before 9 a.m. in the Oak Park neighborhood, near 41st Street and College Avenue.

The family patriarch said he might only have himself to blame for the disaster.

"That’s what hurts the most, man. I think I’m responsible for it," said Kenneth Doolin, head of the family.

The family may have lost everything in the blaze, but relatives are thankful that no lives were lost.

"That’s what I’m most thankful for is that my babies were not here, my wife was not here," Doolin said.

Doolin said he had been smoking upstairs in the bathroom but thought he had put his cigarette out. He said when he went back upstairs to check on his daughter a short time later, he smelled smoke coming from the bathroom.

Unfortunately, Doolin said water service to the home had been turned off. He poured what little water he had on the smoke.

Doolin left to fill four 5-gallon jugs with water. That's how the family has been getting by. But by the time he returned, it was too late.

"When I came back, as soon as I hit the block, I saw smoke coming from the top of the house and I just ran in," Doolin said. "I didn’t even think. I just ran in with the water and tried to put it out myself. But I could not see in there. The electricity was already off by then, in that particular room. I could not see anything. I was trying to cover my face with my sleeve so I could even breathe. I’m trying to hold a 5- gallon can."

The fire department responded before anyone called 911. A rescue crew spotted smoke coming from the house while on their way to another call. Paramedics treated Doolin for smoke inhalation, but he did not go to the hospital.

His wife, mother, sister, two adult sons, two teenage children and a 4-year-old daughter all had been living at the house. In addition, Doolin had taken in a girlfriend of one of his sons and his niece and her daughter.

"I have been in a fire before," Doolin said. "It’s always rough, but the hardest part is replacing clothes for the kids. My baby’s birthday was just days ago. We just got her all kinds of new stuff. It's just gone."

The American Red Cross will help this large extended family with shelter for the next couple of days, and Doolin said a family member has offered to let them all camp out for a while. But there's just not many places that can accommodate a dozen people.

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