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Safety video may have saved one child from Raytown fire that killed his brother

(From left) Ja’Bin Roberts, Jacob Roberts, Jeremiah Roberts
(From left) Ja’Bin Roberts, Jacob Roberts, Jeremiah Roberts Photo courtesy of Grady Lauderdale

Fire survival tips seen in a home safety video likely saved a 6-year-old boy from a deadly Sunday fire, according to the child’s uncle.

When fire broke out early Sunday in a Raytown apartment, Jacob Roberts tried to lead his family to safety, Grady Lauderdale said.

“He said he had seen smoke and then he was crawling, and he tried to tell them to crawl out of the building with him,” Lauderdale said. “But his grandmother was screaming for help, and there was no help coming, and it all happened so quick.”

Sitting In the lobby of Children's Mercy Hospital, Grady Lauderdale explained how a safety video may have helped save his nephew during a fire at Somerset Village Apartments (Feb. 8, 2015 -- video by Shane Keyser|skeyser@kcstar.com).

The fire, reported at 2:20 a.m. Sunday, killed Jacob’s younger brother, Jeremiah, whom Lauderdale said was 4 years old. Another brother, Ja’Bin, 18 months, and his grandmother, Cherri Roberts, 55, remained hospitalized Monday, Lauderdale said.

Lauderdale on Monday describe Ja’Bin’s condition as “critical,” with burns over much of his body. Hospital doctors and nurses at Children’s Mercy Hospital were doing their best, he said, “to keep him here on Earth.”

The boys’ grandmother, Cherri Roberts, also sustained severe burns and is receiving treatment at another hospital, he said.

Jacob had seen the fire safety video at school just last week, said Lauderdale, who on Monday was at Children’s Mercy Hospital, supporting the boys’ parents, Kendra and Jacob Roberts.

“And God put it on his mind and heart to use that skill that he learned to make it out of the fire,” he said.

“I want the world to know that its important to love one another, check on one another and go through fire safety hazards at their home, because this situation can happen to anyone.”

It could take about a week to investigate the fire and try to learn its cause, Raytown Deputy Fire Chief Mike Hunley said Monday.

Raytown Fire Department officials requested assistance from the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives because both agencies have resources that Raytown fire doesn’t Hunley said.

“We don’t have the expertise to investigate a building of that size,” Hunley said.

Hunley added that high winds on Monday likely would prohibit extensive searching of the unstable three-story building at 9811 E. 60th St. One of the building’s walls recently fell on its own, he said.

No Raytown firefighters were injured in the blaze, Hunley said, despite a close call. A hose line being used by some firefighters burned in two, and the firefighters briefly had to take shelter in a non-burning apartment unit.

But a second Raytown fire company, along with a Kansas City Fire Department company, soon arrived, Hunley said.

“Both of those companies brought up hose lines and pushed the fire back,” Hunley said.

Inside the building, the first Raytown fire crew was working to find refuge for itself at the same time it was rescuing the Roberts family. As conditions worsened, the crew carried the 18-month-old boy from the second floor to the third floor.

“They broke the window out and started yelling,” Hunley said. “One of the Kansas City crews put a ladder up against the building.”

One of the firefighters handed the child through an apartment window to a colleague.

Other fire crews helped the first crew and other occupants to safety.

“It was a fire that developed very rapidly,” Hunley said. “Everybody there did the right thing to make sure this didn’t end up differently.”

Apartment fire leaves three injured and dozens homeless.

Brian Burnes: 816-234-4120, @BPBthree

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