Fire chief says 3-alarm fire in KCK was like battling a blaze underwater

A three-alarm fire filled a Kansas City, Kan., furniture store with thick black smoke Sunday afternoon.

The fire, located in a crawl space under the ground floor, proved tricky for firefighters to extinguish. Crews continued to battle the fire for hours.

The crawl space, running underneath the entire ground floor of the building, varied in height — anywhere from 3 to 5 feet, according to fire officials.

“It’s kind of a precarious thing having to send them down there like that,” said Kansas City, Kan., Fire Chief John Paul Jones. “It’s almost like going underwater,”

The fire was reported about 12:15 p.m. at Armourdale Furniture, 633 Kansas Avenue. A second alarm sent extra firefighters and equipment.

“They were doing some construction, some renovation type work in the flooring and fire somehow got initiated,” Jones said. “It’s like going down in a hatch and crawling down in there. Firefighters are shinnying underneath all of that to try to find the locations of these fires.”

A third alarm was sounded so that firefighters could rotate in and out of the store to battle the blaze. A crew of firefighters used the fan of an air boat to ventilate the building, letting out smoke and heat and increasing the visibility inside.

“This fire could have taken out this whole block,” said Jones, who gestured toward the L.A. True Value Hardware building next door while praising his firefighters. “A lot of things happened really fast, but I’ve never been prouder of these guys.”

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb