Archive for Thursday, November 21, 2002

Apartment fire rekindles, destroys homes

November 21, 2002


Tuesday night Serenity Walters was forced to flee her Edgewood Homes apartment because of a fire.

Wednesday morning she watched, stunned and angered, after the fire rekindled and destroyed her apartment in the 1600 block of Haskell Avenue.

âÂÂI was watching my life burn to the ground,â she said.

Smoldering floor tiles heated by a blow torch caused the fire that destroyed two apartments in the fourplex and heavily damaged two others, said Jim McSwain, chief of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical.

Earlier Tuesday, construction workers were in the vacant, far eastern apartment in the fourplex, heating the tiles with a propane torch, McSwain said.

After the workers left for the day, the heated tiles apparently caused a wall to smolder and catch fire, McSwain said.

Firefighters received a 911 call at 8:19 p.m. and responded to what became a two-alarm blaze.

Walters, 28, was watching television when a neighbor banged on her door and warned her of the fire.

âÂÂI saw smoke about that time and grabbed my son and got us out the door,â Walters said later as she watched firefighters battle the blaze.

Walters and her son, Kainen Spooner, 8, spent the night at her sisterâÂÂs apartment, also at Edgewood Homes. About 5 a.m. Wednesday she was awakened by the sirens of returning fire trucks. She looked to see her apartment engulfed in flames.

Wednesday afternoon Walters, aided by friends, was able to save some clothes and her sonâÂÂs desk from the ruins of her apartment.

McSwain and another member of the department stayed at the fire scene overnight Tuesday and reported the rekindle Wednesday morning.

âÂÂA rekindle is not a good thing,â McSwain said. âÂÂSometimes they just smolder and smolder and smolder for hours, then catch fire again.âÂÂ

Nearly a dozen people were left not only without homes but also without their belongings, and neighbors, local businesses and friends were coming to their aid.

Tuesday nightâÂÂs fire damage was mostly contained to a wall that separated the end apartment from an adjoining apartment, fire officials said. Flames also burned through the roof. Fire damage from that night was estimated at $50,000. The remaining two apartments sustained mostly smoke damage.

A final damage estimate after the rekindle had not been determined.

Edgewood Homes is owned by the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority. The authorityâÂÂs resident services office and the tenants association are asking for donations to help 10 residents of three of the apartments recover from their losses.

Needed items: household goods such as towels, sheets, blankets and dishes. Also sought were clothing, toys and food.

Donations can be brought to resident services at Edgewood Homes No. 186. Anyone who wants to donate also can call 838-3398.

The displaced families included three mothers, a father, a 17-year-old girl and girls and boys ranging in age from 1 to 8 years old.

Resident services is also contacting local businesses to help out. Hy-Vee contributed $300 in food coupons, services officials said.

Allen Press employees were donating items to help Walters, a fellow employee. Allen Press is setting up a benefit concert to help Walters get some âÂÂquick cash,â said George Fitzgerald, supervisor of warehousing and fulfillment services.

Monday evening Allen Press employees are invited to go to Paradise Cafe, 728 Mass., and participate in a musical jam to raise donations.

âÂÂWe have a lot of employees who are musicians,â Fitzgerald said. âÂÂWeâÂÂre all trying to come together.âÂÂ

Walters was appreciative.

âÂÂI work with a group of fantastic people,â she said. âÂÂIâÂÂm really lucky.âÂÂ

-- Online editor Dave Toplikar and 6News reporter Sharita Hutton contributed to this report.

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