KCFD responds to abandoned Forest Ave apartment fire

A vacant apartment building at 609 Forest Avenue caught fire for the second time in three days on Tuesday morning.

Kansas City Fire Department (KCFD) crews made a first alarm response, as they do with every commercial building. A first alarm fire calls a minimum of three trucks, five pumpers, a rescue team, two battalion chiefs and two ambulances. No rescues were made, and the fire was contained to one building.

“We’ll automatically start off the first alarm, then we’ll start staging the second one… it’s a safety scenario so we can protect our own people,” said KCFD PIO Jason Spreitzer. “That’s our normal deployment, we’d rather have enough resources respond the first time. The truck was first on the scene, and then pumper 10 was second.”

Smoke and fire was showing from the second and third floor when crews arrived on the scene, but crews ultimately fought fire on all three levels.

“The building was not boarded up correctly, so the security of the building played a factor for people to easily go in,” Spreitzer said. “Obviously, non-residents started the fire.”

Fire investigators will be on scene shortly and make a determination on a cause and where the fire originated.

“From that determination, if they see it being something obviously other than normal, we’ll have the police come,” Spreitzer said. “I’m sure that’s going to happen. There’s a lot of transient folks nearby, and as the winter months are coming up, the people are seeking shelter. So it’s not uncommon to see an influx of vacant buildings catching fire while people are seeking shelter.”

Spreitzer said KCFD works with homeless service agencies, like Hope Faith, in the immediate area of this fire.

“We have community paramedics embedded within the fire department, and we have an outreach team that is actually servicing with Hope Faith to go out and ride on the bus with them and they’re doing wound care and they’re making contact with the houseless population,” Spreitzer said. “That same team is doing work with Care Beyond the Boulevard. We have community paramedics that are going in and also servicing with the Houseless Outreach Team.”

Each Monday and Tuesday, they walk the camps to meet people where they are for medical care.

“We’re making a concerted effort to know our neighbors,” Spreitzer said. “It’s just an ongoing conversation. Those agencies, they know, we have issues with this kind of situation. Sadly, there’s nothing that they can do to deter what’s going to happen, but all we can do is just be active in conversations with people.”

Spreitzer said KCFD is doing its best as an agency to be a good neighbor.

“We have a long road ahead of us, so we’re trying to figure out how to get the services that people need so that they don’t feel like they have to go someplace to seek shelter,” Spreitzer said. “But the one thing that we know is that many people don’t want to follow the rules in certain places. When you have the freedom to do what you want, when you want, that seems to be playing into the factor of this frequency of fires.”

KCFD is making note of abandoned properties in an effort to track and predict fires.

“The reality is, we have more incidents of vacant property [fire] right now than we do people actively living in the property where cooking fires are always our big thing,” Spreitzer said. “We’re looking at that, we’ve got a scenario that we’re worried about.”

There was a fire in the building earlier this week, Spreitzer said, and a debris fire on the property outside of the garage.

“Station 10 did a great, great job responding quickly and safely to the scene; they were able to get water on it fairly quickly,” Spreitzer said. “They used three hand lines to put the fire out. But again, this is an unoccupied building and it was not very well secured upon arrival.”

When a building is not secured, KCFD contacts the City’s with the Dangerous Buildings unit, who then attempts to contact the property owner, an LLC in Leawood, Kan.

“It’s a concerted effort of not only the Fire Department investigation team, the police department and dangerous buildings,” Spreitzer said.

The property has two codes violations from this year, being open to entry and being declared a dangerous building in March. The lot the 1900 building sits on was listed for sale earlier this year as a package with 611 Forest Ave. and 1209 Independence Ave. for $900,000. A sale is currently pending.

The Kansas City Fire Department is hiring. For more information, visit kcmo.gov/city-hall/departments/fire/joinkcfd

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