KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Brianna Taylor-Hinds was on the phone with friends when she smelled an odor resembling smoke. The 22-year-old got up from her couch, opened her door and looked out into the hallways. That’s when she decided to grab her shoes and coat.
“I thought maybe it was a small kitchen fire,” she said. “By the time I had left, probably within five minutes, that’s when the whole thing started going up.”
Taylor-Hinds is one of 30 residents who now are displaced after a fire ripped through one of the Waldo Heights apartment buildings Monday night. Two people were taken to the hospital, including one man who jumped from a third-floor balcony.
Jordan Patton was not home at the time of the fire, but she watched the flames rage through Facetime on her phone.
“One of the windows just exploded, and there was fire coming out and I was like, ‘It’s gone. Everything is gone,’” she said.
Patton and Taylor-Hinds are roommates. Both told 41 Action News they chose to live in the apartment complex because it was affordable and they, like their neighbors, were struggling financially.
“We weren’t planning to be stuck in a place like that, but that’s just where we ended up,” Patton said.
Neither resident has been able to go back to the apartment complex to see if any of their items are salvageable. The complex is currently blocked off as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigates the cause of the fire.
"Fire investigations are a slow process, very methodological because we only get one shot at this," said John Ham, ATF’s Kansas City Field Division Public Information Officer. "Once we are done with this investigation, this building will likely be destroyed or at least completely stripped down to the bare bones... We document the scene. We do 3D imagery of the scene, so it can be recreated virtually later down the road, if that were necessary. Those are all tools that we can do better with the national response team."
The Red Cross has helped displaced residents, including Taylor-Hinds and Patton, find temporary shelter. They and the Salvation Army will help residents with other needs, such as getting toiletries and clothing.
Taylor-Hinds and Patton have set up a GoFundMe account to help them relocate. Although most of their items are presumed to be burnt, they’re glad everyone was able to escape the fire.
“That’s the craziest thing about it,” Taylor-Hinds said. “Considering you couldn’t hear the fire alarms. As of right now, everyone has made it out and relatively safe too.”