OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — As crews were busy battling the blaze at the CityPlace apartment complex and nearby neighbors were working to make sure the community was safe, one man could do nothing but stare in disbelief. He stood helpless as the fruit of his labors crumbled in a mass of smoke and flames.
Travis Stipe, the lead carpenter on the construction project, came down to the area after seeing the smoke from a distance. He didn’t want to believe it was the project he had poured his heart and soul into for almost a year.
“I started this project. When I got here, there was nothing but a slab, and I built half of this. This is just killing me right now,” Travis said as he looked at the charred remains in the distance.
He said it’s emotional seeing something you worked so hard on be completely destroyed.
“It just takes the words right out of my mouth. I don’t know what to say to this. I can’t even see the building right now,” he said.
He was also upset about the homes that caught fire in the area.
“I just got off work. I was coming home down 435 and saw the smoke and I was hoping it was not this place and it turned out it was,” he recalled. “And then I heard some of my guys called me and told me there was like, ten or eleven houses on fire too, and it was just like, ‘are you kidding me?'”
Travis said as a framer, he was responsible for framing up “the clubhouse, the penthouses, fix everything that needed fixing, solve problems that you wouldn’t even think would be there, you make it happen.”
Unfortunately, all that remains of all that hard work is a smoldering ruin.
One of the construction workers who worked at the site also lives close by. The fire is in full view of his home.
Matt McQuinn was working at the construction site when the fire broke out.
“I was over here working on a lift, and the next thing I know, I see people take off running and then I just see smoke, so I just threw all my tools in the van and took off,” Matt said.
He said it was a hectic scene, with an adjacent apartment complex still burning.
“I think there’s only one way in there and I had to drive right by the fire to get out,” he recalled. “By the time I got over here, five minutes, fire trucks were already rolling in.”
He said his home’s proximity to the fire makes him nervous.
“I’m definitely nervous. Thankfully for me — unfortunately for the people over there already lost their homes — the wind is staying south, so I’m straight east of this. So I’m feeling okay right now. But they just told us that if this collapses, they’re moving all of us over here away from it. It’s all just going to spray this way.”
Matt said he’s prepared to leave if the complex collapses.
“I’ve got family in the neighborhood, so I’ll grab as much as we can as quick as we can, and then find somewhere to stay.”