OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Sunday marked five years since the biggest fire in Overland Park’s history.
Since the fire destroyed two apartment buildings, 13 homes and three fire trucks, Overland Park inspectors and staff now have discussions with developers regarding expectations for construction.
But there haven’t been codified changes. The city’s fire chief said it pains him any time he sees a similar fire around the country that could be prevented.
As fire ripped through CityPlace’s wood framed apartment building still under construction March 20, 2017, Matt Bell watched in anguish through his Ring doorbell camera.
“Hello I’m not there, please put that out for me, I’m on way home,” Bell said through the doorbell camera as a painter rang his doorbell after using his feet then a garden hose to try to put out the fire caused by a falling burning ember on the windy day.
His house and as many as 30 others were burning as fire rained down on the community near 115th Street and Nieman Road. He could see the giant ball of flames from his work five miles away.
“I was watching as I was coming home from work what’s going on what’s going on and by the time I got here I couldn’t get up the street because it was burning the houses up the street,” Bell said.
Bell needed a new roof and new deck, but he was lucky his home wasn’t destroyed. Thirteen homes, most with wood shake roofs, were destroyed, and 33 homes were damaged.
Fifty-two fire trucks were called to the 8-alarm fire. Overland Park Fire Chief Bryan Dehner said it tested regional cooperatives and communication lines in ways they’d never been before.
“Those guys fought hard and we had several trucks that the equipment on the truck was on fire. They were taking some heat and they were in a tight spot but they made sure that we kept that other building from going,” Dehner said.
Since the fire Dehner said Overland Park has made sure developers know about new expectations for construction.
“There’s a point in construction in these four-story mid-rises where they are vulnerable,” Dehner said.
The fire was determined to have been caused by a welder working in the building mostly made of only wood at the time. That type of hot work is now discouraged on site in Overland Park.
“We want to make sure if they are going to be done, which you see them across this region and nation, that we do take as much risk out of it as possible.”
The goal for no community to have go through a day like that unforgettable one five years ago. More than $25 million in damage was done, but thankfully no lives were lost.
Dehner credited Block Development Company to reimburse area fire departments for equipment and trucks damaged in the fire. City Place’s website lists the second of four planned phases of the residences at City Place as now leasing. The mixed use space also includes office buildings with plans for shopping.
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