A deadly fire in Raytown early Sunday that destroyed a three-story apartment building could have been much worse.
Raytown firefighters were briefly trapped and issued a mayday call after their hose burned while they were rescuing three people still in the building.
A 5-year-old boy was pronounced dead at a hospital. . A 55-year-old woman and an 18-month-old boy were taken to hospitals and were in critical condition.
No other details were available on the victims.
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Fire crews were called to the Somerset Village Apartments, 9811 E. 60th St., at about 2:20 a.m.
Deputy Chief Mike Hunley said the first crew of three firefighters entered the building in search of one adult and two children who were reported missing.
In a news release later, Fire Chief Matt Mace said firefighters rescued the woman and the two children “in heavy fire conditions” on the second floor of the three-story apartment building. Then the firefighters’ hose was burned through, cutting off their exit.
“The conditions worsened,” the release said, “forcing the crew to carry the infant from the second floor to the third floor where firefighters from (Kansas City) were able to assist by laddering the outside of the building and lowering the infant to the ground.”
Other fire crews entered the building within minutes with more hoses and helped the first crew and the other occupants to safety. The firefighters were not injured.
Less than 10 minutes after everyone was evacuated from the building the roof supports began to fail, causing the roof to collapse.
Twenty-six people were displaced.
The American Red Cross said it was assisting 10 adults and three children with food, lodging and clothes.
An apartment building manager said some residents had been placed in unoccupied units. The manager declined to comment further.
Debbie Smith lived in a third-floor apartment. “Somebody banged on my door,” she said. “The hallway already was filled with smoke, and the lights were still on. I ran back in to get my coat and my billfold. I couldn’t think of anything else.
“I tried to grab the cat, but he ran back into the bedroom,” Smith added. “When I went back into the hall, the lights were out, and I fell down the stairs a little bit. You couldn’t see anything. I was yelling ‘C’mon.’ I didn’t even know who I was yelling to. I kept yelling, ‘C’mon,’ and I was holding the door open, holding my lighter up so they could see.”
After holding the door open for other residents, Smith went outside and saw two police cars and one fire truck. As the sky grew lighter Smith continued to look for her cat, Swisher.
Firefighters then went on a defensive mode after rescuing occupants, attacking the flames from the exterior of the building.
The fire was out by midmorning. The building’s roof was burned through, and the windows and doors were blackened.
The cause of the fire, which appeared to have started on the west side of the building, has not been determined.
The Missouri state fire marshal arrived to assist with the investigation. The interior of the building collapsed, so investigators have to sift through the debris to determine the cause.
That could take about a week, Hunley said.