Investigators: OP apartment fire was accidental, caused by welding work igniting wood

Posted at 4:13 PM, Mar 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-21 21:19:53-04

Fire officials confirm Monday's fire at City Place apartments was accidental.

Early Tuesday, the 41 Action News investigators learned exclusively from a source close to the investigation that the fire was caused by a construction worker who was welding a piece of metal when it overheated catching some nearby wood on fire.

Investigators wouldn't say if the worker violated any safety protocols. 

Chief Bryan Dehner says the building was at its most vulnerable phase of construction.

"The things that we utilize for fire breaks are sheetrock, stucco, sprinkler systems -- none of that was in place," Chief Dehner said. 

According to Chief Dehner, one of the last things to be installed at a newly constructed building is a sprinkler system. He says the system would burst in the winter without being installed in a building with heat. 

The 41 Action News Investigators requested previous inspections on the construction site from the city manager's office. A spokesperson said those would be available in a couple days. 

The fire began Monday afternoon and spread quickly. Firefighters were called to the apartment complex at College Boulevard and Nieman Road around 3:30 p.m. The building was under construction, and officials say no one was living there at the time.

Crews had the fire under control by 8:15 p.m., but the apartment building was still burning. The fire was put out by 5:15 a.m. Tuesday, but Overland Park officials said they battled hotspots from the air in the morning.

Officials said the massive fire damaged at least 25 structures

Jason Rhodes, a spokesman for the Overland Park Fire Department, said that construction materials and chemicals inside the apartment may have caused the fire to spread more quickly.

On Monday night, Rhodes described the area as “a bit of a war zone."

“There has been nothing of this magnitude in my 10 years here,” said Rhodes.

Every fire department in Johnson County came to help fight the 8-plus-alarm fire, Rhodes said, and crews from Kansas City, Missouri, Kansas City, Kansas, and Lawrence also came to the scene.

Three firefighters sustained minor injuries while treating the fire. Some residents in the area experienced power outages. Kansas City Power and Light said outages were “precautionary” and lines were re-energized once the fire department gave the all clear. 

Block Real Estate has made lodging arrangements for CityPlace residents and people in nearby homes affected by the fire. CityPlace has set up a command center in the lobby of the Drury Inn and Suites at 1096 Metcalf Ave. in Overland Park, or residents can go to the Christ Lutheran Church at 117th and Nieman Road. 

The developer of the apartment complex told 41 Action News that two of the buildings still under construction are a total loss. Only one building on the complex is finished. The $450 million project covers 90 acres and is planned to consist of five buildings when completed. 

Overland Park apartment fire




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