Neighbors helping each other after fire damages Midtown KC high-rise apartments

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Investigators are still trying to figure out what started a fire inside a Midtown high-rise apartment building on Christmas Eve.

It happened around 7 p.m. at the Westport Central apartments on Armour Blvd.

Shattered glass still lines the street and sidewalks, blown out from 9th story windows where the fire started.

While a few families are now out of their home, and a pet died in the fire, many here say they still have plenty to be thankful for this Christmas.

Sarah McGee was coming home Christmas Eve and heard something strange.

"I heard some kind of beeping and thought it was the Ellison across the street," she said.

It turns out the noise was fire alarms sounding in her apartment building, Westport Central.

"Then, all the sudden just a few minutes later on the 9th floor, I saw flames actually engulfing the window area," said McGee.

She and her husband pastor Trinity Family Midtown Church on the building's ground floor.  They live on the 7th floor and had been prepping for Christmas Eve services all day.

"We were supposed to have cookies and coffee and that didn't happen so we ended up, since our building was unaffected, going in and getting the cookies and coffee and serving it where we could to the people that were already out here waiting," McGee said.

She said watching part of the building burn was unnerving. The McGees are glad no residents were hurt, but they know one family's home is destroyed and others are dealing with heavy smoke and water damage.

"Our hearts were very saddened to hear that happened and we're praying for people.  We're just trying to be present as far as knowing some of the people that live on the 9th and 10th floors.  Just if we can step in and help or be a listening ear, connect them where we can and help where we can," McGee said.

She and other tenants are also grateful for firefighters and Red Cross volunteers who left their own families and came to the rescue.

"It's really gratifying.  We have to talk to people who are basically having the worst day of their life.  So we're going in and offering comfort, some empathy and then help them figure out the next steps to recover," said Scott Riggs with the Red Cross' western Missouri disaster response team.

Two people on the 9th floor did get treated for smoke inhalation.

Only one unit is destroyed, but a few others are unlivable from smoke and water damage or had doors damaged by fire axes.

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