KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An arson investigation is underway after an overnight fire at a Kansas City apartment complex sent 15 people, including nine children, to hospitals Friday morning.
Dispatch audio made available through Broadcastify describes the large rescue operation that took place while the majority of the Kansas City metro slept.
Dozens of firefighters and emergency responders were dispatched to the Stonegate Meadows Apartments, located south of Interstate 70 and east of Pittman Road, shortly after 12:30 a.m.
When they arrived, smoke and flames were already shooting out of the three-story building, according to dispatch on Broadcastify.
“Smoke and fire blowing out of entrance two story, out of second and first stories of the three-story apartment complex. We’re advancing and looking for a hydrant,” one of the first firefighters to arrive said.
Sirens could be heard blaring in the background of the radio traffic as first responders communicated with each other. At one point, at least one potential victim of the fire could be heard yelling in the background.
As soon as emergency crews arrived, they jumped into action according to the dispatch audio.
Some firefighters were told to get water on the fire, while others went inside to rescue trapped victims.
“We’re sending all crew members to 2nd floor for search. Truck 5 is assisting. Ladders 24 is as well, east side of the building,” a firefighter going door-to-door inside the burning building said.
“Command Rescue 9. We got all clear on the (inaudible) ALPHA DELTA apartments. Moving down the hallway,” the same firefighter said.
Other firefighters headed to the eastside of the burning building to help rescue a half-dozen people trapped by the flames in that area.
“Just be advised we have a few parties trapped in this and we have someone that’s jumped from a second floor balcony,” a dispatcher told firefighters from one company as they arrived.
“Be advised we have reports of five people trapped possibly in apartment,” a dispatcher said.
“We have people trapped on the balcony on the back side,” a firefighter said.
“We got somebody coming out of the eastside window. Can you have an ambulance come to the front of the structure. Have them have their cots faced and ready. We got two or three coming out the window,” a firefighter said.
“Right now we’ve got a pretty good rescue going on the eastside window of the victims,” a firefighter said. “We got five coming out of the window, we got a sixth and final one coming out.”
“First and second floor, we did just pass one child out a window, another adult male coming out,” a firefighter said. “Got another patient coming out the delta side. We need someone to take him down the ladder.”
A dispatcher is also heard telling firefighters on scene that the stairway on the eastside of the building leading to the second floor was destroyed by the flames.
Finally, emergency responders and dispatchers heard the news they’d been waiting to receive.
“We have all occupants of that top residence. All occupants are clear,” a firefighter said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has determined the fire was intentionally set.
Spokesman Jon Ham said the predominant damage is located in hallways and staircases, where K-9s also found evidence of accelerant. Investigators said the fire ignited quickly because of the amount of accelerant used.
“To set a building on fire and to take away the means of exit for nine or 10 little kids and the other people who live here is not OK,” Ham said. “We need to bring that person to justice.”
The building did have smoke detectors, but investigators are still working to determine if they worked to warn people inside the building. Investigators also don’t know yet if the hallway or stairwell had smoke alarms.
FOX4 learned the Kansas City Health Department’s Healthy Homes rental inspection program has been monitoring Stonegate Meadows.
The department has received 24 complaints in the first three months of 2022 already. In 2021, the complex was cited 12 times for inoperable or missing smoke alarms, but all those citations were resolved.
The ATF said there is a $5,000 reward offered for information leading to an arrest in the arson. Call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS if you have any information that can help investigators solve the case.
Trying to escape
Flames blocking the hallway and stairwells obviously made escaping the apartment building difficult for several families.
“Obviously that’s a problem if the structure you live in is on fire and you’re trying to get out. So that is going to account for some of those 15 injuries and the burns and smoke inhalation,” Ham said.
One pair of cousins living at Stonegate Meadows said they were ready to jump but first had to make sure their grandmother was OK.
“I didn’t want to leave my grandma because she’s an amputee and she couldn’t get up and she had fell,” one of the cousins, who didn’t want to be identified, said.
The scary moment called for quick decisions in a matter of seconds. The first thing on their mind was their grandmother.
“It was like smoky. It was hard to breathe and stuff like that, but I just know I needed to get my grandma,” one of the cousins said.
“I take my headphones out and I hear kids screaming, and I run out of my room, I run to my living room and all I see is smoke,” Ali Hassan said.
Hassan reacted quickly when the fire broke out. He jumped to safety but said his family was too scared. Many people were trapped on their balconies waiting for firefighters.
Some people who live in the building claim the smoke detectors didn’t got off. Officials are still investigating that.
“And I see like the firefighters and stuff, and I was screaming like, ‘Help, help my grandma is in there,'” one of the cousins said.
Their grandmother was one of the 15 taken to the hospital with various injuries.
Now investigators are trying to find the find the person responsible for starting the fire and injuring all those people.
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