Families displaced by fire feel the weight of their loss

jlondberg@kcstar.comDecember 16, 2016 

One day after a fire ravaged an apartment complex in Harrisonville, residents displaced are feeling the shock of losing their homes —and all their treasured earthly possessions.

“It’s so close to Christmas, you know, and no one saw this coming,” said Jason Blakey, a resident of the Twin Oaks apartment complex, where fire destroyed one building and damaged four others late Thursday.

A total of 27 people from 11 units in one destroyed building have been displaced. Four other buildings sustained damage. Around 120 people were affected by the fire.

The Red Cross provided a debit card to families to defray short-term costs of lodging and other essential items through the weekend, said spokesman Duane Hallock.

And support has poured in from the community to the Harrisonville Church of the Nazarene, where donations are being collected. Clothing, food, toiletries and other items filled tabletops on Friday.

“It was unbelievable the outpouring of community support,” Hallock said.

The fire originated on the roof of one building in the complex, located off Twin Oaks Terrace and Mission Road, according to Lt. Chris Osterberg, a Harrisonville investigator. He said authorities have not yet determined the cause of the fire, but a working theory is that embers from a second-floor fireplace traveled through a chimney to the roof, sparking the blaze.

Two firefighters were injured while fighting the fire. Both were with the Harrisonville Fire Department. One sustained an injury to his leg when he entered the building and fell through the floor.

Another sustained second-degree burns to his neck from a floating ember that landed on him, according to interim Harrisonville Fire Chief Eric Myler. Both injured firefighters were treated and resumed duty afterward.

Osterberg said fire crews later pulled out of the interior of the building due to the danger and fought the fire exclusively from the outside.

On Friday, Blakey and his family were packing their things in their unit, one of the secondary buildings damaged. Though they and all other residents of the four damaged buildings were allowed to return to their units late Thursday night, Blakey said he and his family are now seeking housing elsewhere. The secondary buildings sustained fire and water damage.

Robb Steinbeck, the property manager at Twin Oaks, said Friday that he is looking to find housing for his displaced tenants.

“I have a lot of good tenants that need a place to live, and it’s going to be nasty weather,” Steinbeck said.

Wanda Burgess, a displaced resident, said she made it out of the building with the clothes she had on and her purse. But nothing else.

“There’s nothing left of what we had,” she said. “There is just nothing left. You drive past there and it hurts.”

Donations came from community members and businesses alike. Sara Bush was planning to drive to Belton for phone chargers for the families. Jennifer Robinson with the Show Me Auto Mall provided feminine products. Stacie Hartzler made a pot of chili and delivered it Thursday night.

Hallock said the Red Cross is linking each displaced family with area resources that can provide more long-term resources.

“It’s a beautiful thing that everyone can come together and help out everybody in the community,” Blakey said.

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