Westport Presbyterian Church Goes Up in Flames

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Firefighters now know what caused a 107-year-old church to go up in flames Thursday night. The Kansas City Fire Department, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Kansas City Police Department Bomb and Arson squad determined the fire was accidental and started by an air conditioning unit on the roof. Damages are estimated at between three and four million dollars.

Thursday night firefighters let midtown's Westport Presbyterian Church burn itself out.

Smoke blanketed midtown and sirens were heard as emergency crews raced to the scene. Although the church daycare was open, everyone escaped without injury.

View pictures of the fire here.

Firefighters said it will be hours before they can begin an investigation into what started the blaze.

Pamela Seymour was working inside the church in the offices of Westport Cooperative Services when she smelled smoke.

"I walked out of my office and there was smoke in the hall, and I ran back in because our bookkeeper was there, and I said, we've got to get out," she said.

Seymour's office helps elderly people in the metro and says they'll find a way to feed clients on Friday.

Neighbors and others with ties to the church watched in horror as the flames leapt from the historic building. Mike Swanson has been a Boy Scout at the church since he was 11. He's now a troop leader, lamenting the loss:

"Pictures of Eagle Scouts down there on the wall from the twenties, you know."

But even as witnesses watched a beloved church burn, they were grateful no one was hurt.

The church is located at 201 Westport Road.

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