High-Rise Residents Frustrated by Careless Smoking Blaze

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Firefighters say that a potentially lethal combination of cigarettes and bottled oxygen could have spelled tragedy as careless smoking led to a fire at a Kansas City high-rise apartment building on Thursday morning.

Authorities say that ten families were left homeless by the blaze at the 12-story Brush Creek Towers apartment building. The four-alarm fire started on the 10th floor by an improperly discarded cigarette from a resident who uses bottled oxygen.

The blaze sent six people to the hospital, including one person in critical condition. The fire caused around $13,000 in damage.

"When I opened up my door, I went out there and it was so smoky I couldn't seen nothing," said resident Ronald Walker, who lives on the 12th floor. "Then I heard that boom."

Firefighters say that the explosion that Walker heard was from an exploding oxygen bottle.  Residents in the building say that the man who lived in the apartment on the 10th floor was notorious for smoking in his room and everywhere else in the building, and he always had his oxygen tank with him.

Edwin Lowndes, executive director of the Housing Authority of Kansas City, says that he has heard the concerns of residents in the building and has promised to work on changes.

"We encourage individuals to report things and write it out," said Lowndes, who says that in the coming days he and his staff will meet to assess the entire situation - including what led to the fire, how the incident was handled and the clean up process. "What did we see but not acknowledge or recognize that, from this day forward we will act differently on."

Resident Jacquelyn Long says that she had only lived in the building for a few days when the fire broke out. She says that she is frustrated but still hopeful.

"There should be signs - oxygen, no smoking - all around the area," said Long.

Long says that nothing will change overnight, but she's appreciative that the lines of communication are open.

"I'm willing to work with anybody who's willing to work with me. I absoloutely am," said Long.

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