KCFD says KCMO apartment fire was electrical

Posted at 3:40 PM, Apr 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-24 18:52:18-04

The Kansas City Fire Department investigators have ruled a fire at a Kansas City, Missouri apartment as electrical.

A family of five jumped from a window to escape the fire Saturday. 

An infant was transported to a nearby hospital, officials said.

Crews responded to the fire at Cloverleaf Apartments on US-71 at about 2 p.m. Officials say it was under control by 3:30 p.m.

Neighbors told 41 Action News that a family of five was trapped on the third floor of the building. Eventually, one infant, three other children, and an adult jumped out of the windows as neighbors caught them. Neighbors believe the infant was only a few weeks old. 

Multiple tenants said that they complained of issues with electrical sockets including Nakia Rollins, who lived in the apartment where the fire started. 

She said the fire started because of a faulty outlet in a bedroom. 

“The same electrical outlet that I called this apartment complex about last week to come and replace for me because I knew something was wrong,” said Rollins. “This is the second time an electrical outlet has exploded in my apartment. First time they blamed it on my kid, saying my [2 and 4-year-old] kids moved a twin XL mattress and put a fork in the outlet.”

Rollins said she noticed the problem the first time when a brand new extension cord shorted out while plugged in to the same outlet.

In a statement sent to 41 Action News, the apartment's owner, Royal American Companies, said it does have a record of a work order from March 2016 about an electrical outlet in that apartment. The company claims that issue was properly addressed and it has no other records of electrical outlet issues for that unit.

The full statement reads:

We are waiting to hear from the fire department with official word as to the cause of the fire. All work orders which have been submitted properly to the staff of Cloverleaf Apartments have been responded to timely and addressed accordingly.  We have no record of receiving a work order regarding an electrical outlet issue from the resident in the unit where the fire originated other than one received in March 2016 which was properly addressed. 
Cloverleaf Apartment’s staff performs monthly inspections of the fire extinguishers located inside all apartment homes to confirm they are in place and fully charged.  If there are fire extinguishers found to be not fully charged or missing fire extinguishers within the apartment home they are replaced.  Additionally, Cloverleaf Apartments contracts with a third party vendor to perform annual inspections on all fire extinguishers located on property. 
Cloverleaf Apartment’s staff is working expeditiously to relocate residents who have been displaced and is working closely with the Fire Department to assess the official damage to the property. 

In a separate interview, tenant Tiffany Sleight also said she had outlet problems.

“I was having the same problems that the lady had who her apartment caught on fire,” said Sleight. “Electrical problems with the plug-ins. Anything I would plug something in, it would short out my hallway light.”

Sleight said she also placed a maintenance request to fix the outlets.

“I did and I didn't get nowhere. I know that [Rollins] had requested it several times,” said Sleight.

Tenant Ashley Carter sent images to 41 Action News showing some outlets with exposed wires inside her apartment. She said her request for repairs also went unanswered.

Photos of broken outlets

Photos courtesy Ashley Carter

41 Action News contacted a property manager about the complaints. The manager said they were not going to be able to speak with us and said the management company would contact us. 41 Action News is still waiting for a response. 

Rollins also said nothing came out of her extinguisher when she tried to put out the fire. 

"The one in the hallway was all the way on green. Only two small puffs came out of that one," Rollins said. "We just had to sit here and watch it burn."

Fifty people were displaced by the fire.