KANSAS CITY, Kan. – A Kansas City, Kansas community is mourning the loss of a woman who died in an early morning apartment fire Sunday, at the Juniper Gardens Apartments off Edgerton and N. 2nd Street. Neighbors say the victim was someone known in the area as “Grandma.”
On Monday, the Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department identified Mamie Johnson as the 69-year-old woman who died during the fire.
Neighbors told FOX 4 that Johnson stopped every single person and said hello, often times from her porch. Now all that’s left is a black hole where flames and smoke destroyed Johnson’s home and claimed her life.
Shortly after one o’clock Sunday morning, firefighters responded to flames at a two-story apartment building. Neighbors told firefighters someone was inside. Crews were able to pull a 69-year-old woman, later identified as Johnson, out of an upstairs bedroom, but she died from her injuries.
Neighbors said Johnson was just a genuinely nice person, the kind that the kids could trust. They say she would tell them “Good job!” when they did cartwheels in the yard and gave out a dollar when birthdays came around. The news of her death was hard to break to the children who loved her.
Dianna Hernandez said of telling her five-year-old granddaughter, “It’s real tough because when I had to tell her, she was quiet and started just crying, so it made the rest of us cry and I’m getting ready to start now.”
Johnson’s next door neighbor, Kiara Watson, said everything happened so quickly.
“I didn’t hear a smoke alarm. One of the neighbors came and banged on my door. ‘You need to get out of your house. Get your kids and get out,’” said Watson.
Watson says she ran out of the house barefoot with no clothes, holding her two children, and then realized, “Wait, I don’t see Grandma. We call her Grandma. I don’t see her.”
It was then that she came to grips with the fact that the fire claimed more than property and material items.
“There was no way for her to escape. There was no getting out of there for her. I hope that she didn’t have to feel any of that. It’s hard. It’s going to be hard, the thought of her gone,” said Watson.
First responders have not released Johnson’s name, but neighbors tell us her son was at the scene. Paramedics also took a man with burns to his back area and feet and an injured firefighter to the University of Kansas Hospital. The American Red Cross sent workers to the complex to assist.