One person jumped to safety from a second-story window as a rapidly spreading fire engulfed a Kansas City apartment building before dawn Friday.
Two people, including the jumper, were taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries.
A 37-year-old Kansas City woman has been charged with arson in connection with the fire, Jackson County prosecutors said.
The fire consumed the three-story brick structure at 27th Street and Benton Boulevard. Large sections of the building collapsed as firefighters fought the blaze in a defensive mode for several hours.
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The Kansas City police bomb and arson squad investigated the blaze. Soon after the fire, police said they had a person of interest in custody.
Hours later, Jackson County prosecutors charged Loukesha Smith with arson. No other details of the investigation were immediately available.
Smith was in custody with bond set at $50,000, according to court records.
In 1999, a Loukesha Smith had escaped a house fire that killed 25-year-old Eugene Counce at 4424 Cloon Ave.
Counce was living in the Kansas City home with Smith, then 20, and her three children — ages 4, 2 and 8 months. Smith and her children escaped out a back door.
At the scene of the fire Friday morning, Tenant Robert Gunion first realized something was wrong when he heard someone knocking on his door, yelling for everyone to get out about 5 a.m. He and his wife lost everything in the fire, he said.
Shouting woke another tenant, 63-year-old Emma Beaver, who opened her door and saw smoke coming down the hallway. Someone told her that a mattress had caught fire.
“Somebody tried to get it (the mattress) out of the building, and the fire started from there,” said Beaver, who moved into the six-unit building last fall.
“Everything is gone,” she said. “Everything is gone.”
Firefighters took a hose into the second floor to quell the flames from inside the building, but the growing blaze soon forced them back outside, said Battalion Chief Mike Cashen. At that point, firefighters moved their equipment farther back from the building, established a collapse zone and began fighting the fire in a defensive mode.
“I know they made it to the second floor with hand lines trying to fight the fire,” said Cashen, who arrived at the scene during a 7 a.m. shift change.
“They were doing a good job, but it was already fully involved on the third floor and half of the second floor was going, driving them to their knees; they had to back out. They had everybody that they knew about in the building accounted for, so they made the decision to go defensive and get everybody out.
“And … the building started collapsing on itself, so it was certainly the right decision to make.”
An apartment building just to the west sustained minor damage, with a few broken windows, Cashen said.
“They actually did a great job of keeping the fire from getting into that building, because it was rolling,” he said.
Cashen could not confirm reports from residents that the fire may have started on a mattress. The cause was under investigation, he said.
A city bus was brought to the scene to provide a warm space for those displaced by the fire. The Greater Kansas City Chapter of the American Red Cross helped 16 people, including one who escaped the building with only one shoe.
Firefighters also evacuated the nearby apartment building. Tamara Shobe, who lives in that building, heard firefighters pounding on doors and ordering everyone out. She took her daughter to the bus, where they remained at 8:30 a.m.
“They told us we can’t get back in until (the city’s) dangerous building office says it is OK,” Shobe said.
Many families, including children, from the burned building regularly obtained food from the pantry at nearby St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, said Shirley Bolden, the church’s senior warden.
Ian Cummings contributed to this report.