Archive for Sunday, January 20, 2008

Apartment fire forces 20 from homes

Lessons learned from Boardwalk blaze helped residents, firefighters

January 20, 2008

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Firefighters respond to apartment fire

The cause of an early morning fire at a two-story apartment complex at 23rd and Kasold streets is still under investigation. Enlarge video

Firefighters from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical respond to a fire Saturday morning at Heatherwood Valley Apartments, near Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive. One person suffered nonlife-threatening injuries, and about 20 residents were displaced.

Firefighters from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical respond to a fire Saturday morning at Heatherwood Valley Apartments, near Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive. One person suffered nonlife-threatening injuries, and about 20 residents were displaced.

Lawrence Fire & Medical Lt. Ed Noonen wipes away insulation after coming out of a apartment building in the 2000 block of Heatherwood Drive, where fire broke out about 6:00 a.m. Saturday. The blaze is blamed on an unattended candle left in a second story bedroom.

Lawrence Fire & Medical Lt. Ed Noonen wipes away insulation after coming out of a apartment building in the 2000 block of Heatherwood Drive, where fire broke out about 6:00 a.m. Saturday. The blaze is blamed on an unattended candle left in a second story bedroom.

Residents huddle together outside in 2 degree temperatures after their leaving their apartment building, which caught fire about 6 a.m. Saturday. Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical responded to the fire. Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire, but witnesses say it began when a mattress came in contact with a burning candle.

Residents huddle together outside in 2 degree temperatures after their leaving their apartment building, which caught fire about 6 a.m. Saturday. Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical responded to the fire. Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire, but witnesses say it began when a mattress came in contact with a burning candle.

An early morning fire displaced about 20 residents at a two-story apartment complex near Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive. Flames spread quickly through the complex, located at 2040 Heatherwood Drive, according to witnesses. Firefighters rescued several residents from second-floor balconies.

Emergency crews were dispatched to Heatherwood Valley Apartments at 5:57 a.m. Saturday. One resident suffered nonlife-threatening injuries, and was taken by a private vehicle to Lawrence Memorial Hospital for further evaluation. No firefighters were injured combating the blaze, but their efforts were briefly hampered when a private vehicle drove over a 5-inch fire hose.

Members of the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross were on the scene counseling displaced residents. David Gage, president of Gage Management Inc., which operates the complex, said about 20 residents were forced from their homes. He said a dozen units were damaged by the fire, but four of those were vacant. The complex was equipped with smoke detectors, and each apartment was furnished with a fire extinguisher, he said.

"Most of it's due to smoke and water damage. There were only two apartments that got burned pretty bad," Gage said. "It's not a good situation. We've been working since 6 o'clock this morning to find people places to stay."

Gage said his company was attempting to house residents in vacant properties operated by Gage Management, as well as helping them find alternative accommodations and even releasing tenants from their leases. While apartments on the eastern block of the complex were rendered uninhabitable, residents safely remained in the western block of the building.

Jane Blocher, director of the Red Cross, said the Red Cross was assisting displaced residents, including eight Kansas University students and two faculty members, in procuring food, clothing, accommodations and medicine. The KU Office of Student Success also assisted the students and faculty members.

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical Division Chief Eve Tolefree said investigators had yet to determine the cause of the fire, but witnesses and Gage said it began when a mattress came in contact with a candle.

Stella Self and Jeff Connor live in an apartment across the hall from the second-floor apartment where the fire began. They escaped as flames began to engulf the apartment complex, after being awakened by the neighbor who lived in the apartment where the fire started.

"As soon as I opened the door, I saw his apartment and it was full of flames," Connor said.

Noble Lathrom, 27, was awakened by the same resident, whom he said was warning neighbors of the danger, despite severe burns. The fire was vicious, Lathrom said.

"There were flames shooting out (the neighbor's) door and the window. Nobody's going back in these apartments," Lathrom said.

"I feel lost and confused. It's not every day you find yourself homeless in 10 minutes," Self said. "I don't know where I'm going to go yet. I've got my kids covered and that is all I was worried about."

Tolefree said lessons learned in the aftermath of the deadly Boardwalk Apartments fire in 2005 helped prevent a disaster from occurring Saturday morning.

"I think with the initial dispatch information, with some dispatch knowing that there were occupants that needed to be rescued from the second-floor balcony, a second and third alarm was struck. Immediately, they knew they needed to rescue a couple of occupants from the balcony," she said.

The Boardwalk disaster may have made residents more aware of the need for escape plans, Tolefree said.

"I have heard that there were maybe two or three occupants that escaped on their own from one of those extension ladders that they threw out their window," she said.

Neither Self, Lathrom nor his roommate James McCarty, 26, had renter's insurance. Blocher said only one resident of the 20 affected by the fire had renter's insurance.

Blocher reiterated the importance of renter's insurance. "It is so affordable," she said. "For what we spend on a weekly basis at Starbucks or going to the drive-through, you can get yourself covered for all your losses for a few lattes."

Comments

jayharchitect 7 years, 2 months ago

"...but their efforts were hampered when a vehicle drove over a five-inch fire hose."

Who would drive across a fire hose... during a fire?

bearded_gnome 7 years, 2 months ago

I agree, with a nighttime fire it is great that there weren't worse injuries! thank God.

Who would drive across a fire hose: during a fire?

who? probably somebody who shouldn't have a license at all! hope they ticket this person and he/she loses driving privileges for a while. stupid is as stupid does.

Charles L Bloss Jr 7 years, 2 months ago

I sure hope they were charged for driving over the hose, it is against the law! Thank you, Lynn

Laura Watkins 7 years, 2 months ago

actually, that's true about gage management...

Sheila Couchman 7 years, 2 months ago

Gage never fixes anything and they do not care about anyone or anything besides money.

Nikki May 7 years, 2 months ago

Oh, and not everyone CAN get renters insurance.

purplesage 7 years, 2 months ago

My renter's policy costs $300 a year. When the city's sewer backed up, it was worth every penney.

Mike Blur 7 years, 2 months ago

Nice to know, rancidbeef. Now, do the rest of us a favor. Go away.

Nikki May 7 years, 2 months ago

No matter what it costs, you have to qualify. They WILL turn people down. They do a credit check and if your credit is even questionable then they will turn you down. They base this on their thought that if you have bad credit you will make false claims. Also, even several years ago when I had renters insurance it was more than $85 a year.

NoOneSpecial 7 years, 2 months ago

The fire department should have checked on their firefighters before saying none were injuried. Several were hurt. Nothing serious thank God.

bambam23 7 years, 2 months ago

"The fire department should have checked on their firefighters before saying none were injuried. Several were hurt. Nothing serious thank God."

%100 false. Why even make something like this up?

OldEnuf2BYurDad 7 years, 2 months ago

"multifamily dwelling projects and fire wall construction under the irc and ibc information bulletin no. 142 (June 7, 2002 Revised January 31, 2005)"

Those apartments were built in the 1970s. I'm sure standards today are different.

NoOneSpecial 7 years, 2 months ago

bambam, were you there? I was. Your 100 % wrong.

bambam23 7 years, 2 months ago

lol ok what kind of injuries? p.s i was there.

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