Archive for Friday, October 7, 2005

Fire destroys apartment building

17 people injured in blaze; two helicoptered to K.C. hospitals

October 7, 2005, 1:35 a.m. Updated October 7, 2005, 5:13 a.m.


A massive fire "totally destroyed" a 76-unit Lawrence apartment building early Friday morning, injuring 17 people - including two who were taken by helicopter to Kansas City hospitals.

Interim Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical Chief Mark Bradford told reporters at a 4:15 a.m. briefing that officials were still conducting a headcount of residents at Boardwalk Apartments in the 500 block of Fireside Drive, and that an "unknown" number were unaccounted for.

"There's been significant structural collapse," he said. "It will take us some time to get in and search all the areas."

Bradford said it was too early to determine the cause of the fire.

Surviving residents were directed to a Red Cross shelter set up at the nearby American Legion hall, 3408 W. Sixth St. At 4:30 a.m., the hall had received fewer than a dozen people seeking shelter.

"We can take in as many as we need to," said Jane Blocher, director of the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross. She said officials had told her as many as 100 people had been displaced by the fire, though most would seek shelter with family or friends.

Dispatchers received "numerous" 911 calls about the fire at 1:19 a.m., Bradford said. The first fire crews arrived on scene at 1:25 a.m. and quickly called in help from the Lenexa and Olathe fire departments.

Donna Watson, the manager of Boardwalk Apartments, said there were 76 units in the block of apartments that were burning but not every apartment was occupied.

"I have a real mix," she said. "There's young married couples, elderly people, singles, some college students."

Joseph Anderson, a Haskell student who lives in a nearby apartment, was playing video games on his Xbox with friends and became aware of the fire shortly after 1 a.m. He said he was joined by three friends in knocking on doors to try to get sleeping residents out of the building.

"We were all hysterical, yelling," he said. "I heard screams. I couldn't do anything for them : it was moving so fast."

The fire quickly spread to the rest of the building, which included the addresses of 510, 512, 516, 518, 522 and 524 Fireside Drive.

"All of which are totally destroyed," Bradford said.

The blaze initially generated a column of glowing embers which threatened apartments and office buildings to the south. Police evacuated the nearby apartments, and firefighters quickly poured water on the building to prevent a spread of the conflagration.

Christopher Collins stood in the parking lot of a nearby building, shoeless and wrapped in a blanket.

"My place burned down," he said of his apartment at 524 Fireside No. 12.

"Somebody banged on my door - the real hard type where you think it's coming off the hinges. : I looked out my door to see where the fire was, figuratively speaking. I saw it was four doors down."

Collins said he had escaped wearing only the blanket. Somebody friendly gave him a shirt, pants and socks to wear.

"At least I got some dignity now," he said.

Dave Klebek also lived at 524 Fireside, in apartment No. 6. He escaped out the window with his cat after finding the ledge ablaze outside his front door.

"It wasn't much of a drop, second floor," he said.

500 block of Fireside Drive

But Klebek said he saw glass exploding from burning apartments, and another Boardwalk resident jump out of a third-floor window.

"We was grabbing at his ankle after he landed," Klebek said.

Bradford said firefighters treated and transported seven people for injuries, including two in critical condition who were taken by helicopter to Kansas City hospitals. Another 10 people took themselves to the Lawrence Memorial Hospital emergency room for minor injuries, he said; condition reports were not immediately available.

By 4:30 a.m., firefighters were still on scene, but it appeared they had the blaze mostly under control. And the first survivors were reporting to the Red Cross shelter.

Collins, as it happened, was the first resident to report.

"I'm homeless," he told the Red Cross volunteer.

For more on this story, see the 6News 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. reports on Sunflower Broadband's channel 6 and pick up a copy of Saturday's Journal-World.


6News video: Early morning report on the fire at Boardwalk Apartments, 524 Fireside Drive. Enlarge video


6News video: Late morning report on the fire at Boardwalk Apartments. Enlarge video

Conference with Interim Fire Chief Mark Bradford

Interim Fire Chief Mark Bradford talks with reporters at a mid-morning Friday news conference. Enlarge video


grubesteak 12 years, 8 months ago

How awful. I hope we as a community can band together and help out. I'm ready to give; let's find out what's needed.

grubesteak 12 years, 8 months ago

Yikes. I just went out to my car and noticed it has ash all over it. We live about 1/4 a mile south of the fire. Nuts.

coach 12 years, 8 months ago

I was at the scene at this horrific event. I want to thank the Police Officers who arrived and started pulling people out of the building. I know they saved many people before the Fire Departmant arrived. I observed a handfull of Officers catching people from windows, pulling people out of the 3rd story windows with ladders and carrying injured away from the building. There were at least 4 explosions in the building, showering the officers with glass and debris. That didn't stop them. They continued to help the people. all the while the apartment was fully engulfed with flames. Yes the Fire Department was there, but it was those first Officers there that saved lives today. God bless you all.

sandrat7 12 years, 8 months ago

Gift certificates from WalMart, etc would be very useful to these folks, they have lost EVERYTHING. Your garage sale items might be donated, too. I wonder if the Salvation Army could distribute these type of things.

KansasKel 12 years, 8 months ago

I live near 27th and Inverness and I had soot on my car and in my driveway this morning...and it was even farther south than that. I got online to see what it was from and when I saw apartment fire I thought it must be Aberdeen...couldn't believe it when I read it was clear over on 6th!!!

I'm so sorry that people have lost their homes.

wysocki 12 years, 8 months ago

Oh, no, what a tragedy! That such a large apartment complex should be engulfed in flames so quickly and create such destruction, not to mention heartache and injuries to its tenants, makes one wonder what is wrong with the City's building codes and/or building inspection process.

Bustamove 12 years, 8 months ago

I am so greatful that everyone ( I hope) got out. But where were the smoke alarms, sprinklers......

JenCoop1982 12 years, 8 months ago

This is a horrible thing, I personally find it funny that it happened so close to the trial of a man who shot at 4 people on the second story balcony of 524 Frontier Rd! His trial is next Tuesday!!! This is such a terrible thing, my thoughts are with all who lived there! I really hope they find out the cause of this. I do know there were smoke alarms, I lived in that building and I pray everyone got out safe! Let us know if there is ANYTHING needed!!!!

sd123 12 years, 8 months ago

I have a two car garage full of stuff anyone from there can have. I was going to have a garage sale in a couple of weeks but I think it would be great to just give it to the people who have been traumatized by this fire. I would be more than willing to let people donate their items and store it in my garage until it is ready to be distributed. We can all come together as a community and help these people. If anyone is interested in doing this, you can contact me via e-mail @ or call me 917-1142

b_asinbeer 12 years, 8 months ago

macon47....pardon my language, but how stupid are you? Here, people lose their homes, suffer immense trauma, and the best you can do is, "Ban fires"? IDIOT!!! I can't believe there are people as insensitive as you. You should be ashamed of yourself!

AmyR 12 years, 8 months ago

I admire our police and fire for their bravery. How terrible. Thank god for the police. I read they were catching people out of windows as they jumped.

lunacydetector 12 years, 8 months ago

i hope there isn't any loss of life. there are still people missing, according to the radio.

perhaps this will make the city rethink the theory that citizens are better off living in congested buildings. -not trying to be political here, but this is a prime example that more people living in more apartment buildings is not the answer.

my heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragedy.

kansasboy 12 years, 8 months ago

I too admire the hard work and effort put in by our fire, police department and pray for those missing injured or displaced. However I am a bit concerned that the LDCFM had to call Olathe and Lenexa. We are surrounded by wonderful township fire departments in Douglas County i.e. Wakarusa, Lecompton, Kanawaka, Eudora, Baldwin... Why wait 45mins. to an hour for Johnson County resources when have all those resources and more in our own back yard. Chief Bradford you are doing an aoutstanding job, but please look into this as a future possibilty. After all LDCFM stands for Lawrence DOUGLAS COUNTY Fire and Medical.

dirtykaw 12 years, 8 months ago

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mr_h_atom 12 years, 8 months ago

You know what is tasteless?

The automatically generated Ads (by Google) advertising firefighting supplies, etc.

When reading a story of a tragedy, perhaps JW should think about monitoring advertising???

glockenspiel 12 years, 8 months ago

Thank you everyone that has been so generous...and please anyone that can give anything to help these people out, please do so.

Allot of these people did't have allot the way it is and they will need all the help they can get.

nefball1031 12 years, 8 months ago

i live near clinton parkway and Kasold, and i could smell smoke this morning when i left for school, and i had a friend who lives by southwest and could smell smoke also. this was around 6:45

b_asinbeer 12 years, 8 months ago

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