Careless smoking blamed for high-rise fire that forced evacuations

Careless smoking is being blamed for a fire that forced the evacuation of a 12-story apartment building near Bruce Watkins Drive in Kansas City, a fire official said this morning.

Flames engulfed a single unit late Wednesday night and set off small explosions.

One person was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Five others were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The blaze was doused 15 minutes after a call for help — but only after at least six oxygen tanks ignited by intense heat launched fireballs over the heads of incoming firefighters. They used “hotel packs” of hoses that tapped into the building’s internal water system to overcome the flames.

Those exploding oxygen tanks, which were not believed to be the fire’s cause, nearly buckled a wall between the apartment where the fire occurred and the building’s atrium.

Twenty companies and eight ambulances raced to the three-alarm fire at Brush Creek Towers at Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard and Woodland Avenue.

The atrium that stretches past all the floors filled with smoke after flames engulfed a 10th-floor apartment about 9:30 p.m.

Area Transportation Authority buses were called in — not to take the residents away, but to give them some place to escape the evening heat.

The fire caused $10,000 in damages to the building and $3,000 in damages to its contents.