Blazing hot and extremely dry conditions kept area firefighters hopping on Independence Day.
The good news? Most calls involved grass or brush fires.
The bad? Firework-related structure fires more than doubled this year in Kansas City.
It remained unclear, however, whether fireworks played a role in the area’s largest and most damaging July Fourth blaze — at a 24-unit Blue Springs apartment building Wednesday evening.
Investigators concluded Thursday that the fire probably started on an outside balcony.
“We have ruled out electrical outlets, as well as any kind of barbecue grill or smoker, but are unable to confirm how it started,” said Eddie Saffell, assistant fire chief for the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District. “The investigators couldn’t find any remnant of anything.”
In Kansas City, firefighters responded to 13 fireworks-related structure fires Tuesday and Wednesday. Last year, the number was five.
“We’ve had an extremely busy last two days,” said Battalion Chief Lew Hendricks, a department spokesman.
Damage estimates ranged from $500 to $80,000, he said.
“This year you happened to have the stars all in alignment — high heat, low humidity, wind and then moderate to severe drought conditions,” he said. “It is not just one thing, but a combination of all those.”
In Independence, firefighters saw a new fireworks threat — “illuminators,” said Sandy Schiess, department chief. When the balloon-like devices are heated with a small flame, they float skyward.
“They are pretty, but they are supposed to burn out before they come down on the ground,” Schiess said. “What we found out is that some of them still have a flame when they reach the ground.”
A deputy chief watched one illuminator land on a roof.
“He knocked on the door of the residence, and the fire was put out with a hose,” Schiess said.
Another department member tracked one across the sky and saw it land in mulch. That fire was extinguished before it grew, Schiess said.
Independence crews ran 77 fire calls Wednesday, compared to a normal daily run of 50 to 55 calls. About 15 involved grass fires possibly caused by fireworks, she said.
Raytown fire officials reported seven fireworks-related calls. In Kansas City, Kan., people scrambled to safety when a fire, believed linked to fireworks, started in a home in the 400 block of North 16th Street.