Jennifer Goode woke up to the sound of a loud crash of thunder Thursday morning as a storm rolled through Lawrence.
Then, just before 6 a.m., she heard someone frantically ringing her doorbell warning her that the roof of her Aberdeen South apartment had caught fire.
About two hours later, she stood in the rain outside the building, 4700 W. 27th St. The fire had collapsed the roof and destroyed building JJ at the complex, displacing 10 people.
“Thank God, I got out when it started. It’s bad,” said Goode, a Washburn University student, who lives with her sister, Jessica, who was not home at the time.
Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical investigators Thursday evening confirmed a lightning strike on the southeast corner of the building caused the fire.
Nearly all residents of the building had evacuated once firefighters arrived. No one was injured in the fire.
Journal-World newspaper carriers Phil and Alex Victor were among those who reported the fire and knocked on the doors to alert residents.
Kim Springer, who lived on the building’s second floor, answered her doorbell at 6 a.m. She came outside with her dogs, keys and purse and saw a patch of flames on the opposite corner of the building.
“It shocked me. I thought my apartment would be fine when I first walked out and saw it,” said Springer, who works for Kansas University Facilities and Operations.
The Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross was working with the 10 people displaced by the fire, executive director Jane Blocher said. The organization is providing food, clothing and lodging to those who need it.
Anna Flores, a regional manager for Campus Apartments, said all residents were now residing in temporary hospitality quarters.
“Thank God nobody got hurt,” Springer said.
Scott Nelson, who lives in a nearby building, also said he heard a crash of thunder in the area at 6 a.m., and minutes later he heard sirens as firefighters responded.
He also said what started out as an initial patch of fire on the roof’s corner spread quickly to the center of the building.
“I definitely didn’t think it would end up like this,” Nelson said.
Springer said she was surprised to see the building was on fire at all because did not notice any smoke and didn’t hear any smoke alarms. Fire officials said that was because the location of the fire was in the attic.
“You need smoke to activate the detector, and most of the apartments were still clear of smoke while we were inside trying to fight fire in the attic area,” Division Fire Chief Joe Hoelscher said.
He said the building sustained significant fire, smoke and water damage.
“We knew we had a fire in the attic area,” Hoelscher said. “Those are very difficult because of all of the exposed lumber and plywood.”
Fire Marshal Rich Barr said insurance investigators were still trying to determine the extent of the damage and whether the building needed to be completely torn down and rebuilt or reconstructed from the first floor. The building is valued at $537,000, Barr said.
In assessing and attacking the fire Thursday morning, firefighters found little to no smoke inside the second-story units, but the flames started to spread in the attic, causing severe damage to the roof.
“We removed all of the crews, and then shortly the roof started collapsing in,” Hoelscher said. “At that point we switched to defensive operations and got our large aerial ladders up.”
Division Chief Eve Tolefree said firefighters had the blaze under control shortly after 7 a.m.
Goode said the fire destroyed nearly all of their belongings.
As she stood outside watching firefighters put out hot spots on the building, her father, Gary Goode, of Shawnee, said he was just glad everyone got out safely.
“The other stuff will be replaced,” he said.