Careless cigarette disposal determined to be the cause North Kansas City office building fire
An improperly discarded cigarette caused the massive three-alarm fire that ravaged an office building at Armour Road and Swift Avenue, fire officials said Wednesday.
Dry conditions and wind propelled the fire, officials said.
Fire officials called in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to help with the investigation.
ATF spokesman John Ham noted that it is very rare to determine a fire's cause so quickly. But because the fire broke out around 12:30 p.m., there were many witnesses and others who used their cellphones to take video of the fire, he said.
"There was enough wind yesterday that when our fire investigators and the fire investigators from North Kansas City looked at the fire pattern, looked at the area of origin, they were able to determine pretty quickly that it was in that area," Ham said.
The cause was accidental and there is no criminal investigation, Ham said. He said he did not think it was possible to pinpoint who discarded the cigarette.
North Kansas City fire Chief Dave Hargis said the fire traveled up the wall and got trapped in several void spaces in the attic. One of the spaces was vented from the outside, and wind drove the fire throughout the attic.
"If you smoke, don't throw them out of the window," Hargis said. "If you're a smoker, be aware that the improper disposal of a cigarette caused the damage."
There were no reported injuries, and estimated damage has not been determined.
The 21,000-square-foot Pioneer Building, in the 1900 block of Swift Street, houses 13 businesses. When built in the early 1900s, it was part of the beginning of the development of North Kansas City's central business district, according to historic records.
The building was up to code but did not have sprinklers, officials said.
It is unclear how many workers were inside the building at the time of the fire.
N.T. Realty owns the building and is working to help the 13 displaced businesses relocate to other company-owned properties, said Kim Nakahodo, an assistant city administrator.
Fire officials said they did not know if the owners plan to rebuild.
Fire crews were initially called at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday to a report of smoke on a deck.
The roof eventually collapsed, and hours later, embers from the fire still burned.
A firetruck with an aerial ladder is stationed at the intersection to respond to any hot spot flare-ups. Utilities to the surrounding buildings and businesses has been restored, Nakahodo said.
Large plumes of thick, dark gray smoke filled the skyline and were visible from throughout northern Clay County and downtown Kansas City.
The windy conditions forced crews to fight the blaze from the outside. Additional fire crews from Kansas City and Gladstone provided mutual aid during the blaze.