Story by Muleskinner Staff: Ellen Becker-managing editor, Andy Lyons-news editor, Rob Curry-assistant news editor, Kristin Gallagher-business manager, Nicole Cooke-copy editor
(WARRENSBURG, Mo.)—No residents were injured in a house fire on the 400 block of Jefferson Street that started on the middle floor of a three-story house. The house was divided into four apartments. Warrensburg Fire Chief Phil Johnston estimated there were four or five families residing in the home.
The fire caused so much heat that at least one oxygen tank in a resident’s apartment exploded. The blaze raged for about three hours with 11 emergency vehicles responding. Hundreds of local residents gathered behind caution tape, set up by Warrensburg Fire Dept., and watched as several groups of firefighters battled the flames.
A neighbor, Jason Bauer, said he heard an explosion and stepped out of his second floor apartment to see the house engulfed in flames. While he was making a statement to the police, a second explosion occurred on the porch of the residence.
“We came up and we were standing across the street, as we were telling the police officer that something else was going to explode and then something on the front porch exploded,” he said. “Things went everywhere and they made everyone move back a block or two.”
Stella Santos, a UCM freshman, lived in apartment No. 3 with her fiance, Keith Thompson, who is also a UCM student.
“I was in my apartment and heard a big boom,” Santos said. “My lights started to flicker and I saw a red light out my window, so I looked outside and saw the fire. Then I got out.”
She said when she heard the first explosion, she thought something had just fallen on her ceiling. The second explosion happened as soon as she got out of her apartment.
Moneisha Williams and her girlfriend Kiera Jones, residents of one of the house’s four apartments, both said they heard fighting followed by what sounded like a “body-slam.” A friend who was visiting them, Amanda Pepper, said she felt uncomfortable because they thought the tenants upstairs were fighting and stepped outside to find the side of the house on fire.
“I come outside ‘cause I’m not used to this, I’m not normally over here, I’m not used to people fighting,” Pepper said. “I looked outside, the whole front of the house is on fire. From the side, you could see the flames shooting out from the porch. You could tell the whole front of the house was on fire. I told everyone to get out.”
The resident of the apartment where the fire originated, Brenda King, said that she fell asleep around 7:30 p.m. Monday and awoke later because she felt heat on her legs.
“I tried putting it out as much as I could,” she said. “My daughter-in-law that lives with me was choking, and I have emphysema and COPD. I stayed long enough to try and put (the fire) out. I don’t know how it started. I had to get out.”
Jones claimed that King smoked cigarettes around her oxygen tanks.
Santos said she was unable to get any belongings out of her apartment. “Everything’s pretty much gone,” she said. She said her landlord has agreed to let her stay in another of his apartment complexes, but isn’t sure about the house’s other occupants.
The Warrensburg Fire Dept. is investigating the initial cause of the fire.