Investigators say cause of massive 8-alarm fire in Overland Park - KCTV5

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Investigators say cause of massive 8-alarm fire in Overland Park was accidental

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A firefighter watches from the scene of an apartment complex fire as firefighters douse fires at nearby homes Monday in Overland Park, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) A firefighter watches from the scene of an apartment complex fire as firefighters douse fires at nearby homes Monday in Overland Park, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The fire started at the building of the $450 million City Place development in the area of College Avenue and Switzer Road. (KCTV5) The fire started at the building of the $450 million City Place development in the area of College Avenue and Switzer Road. (KCTV5)
OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -

The evening after a massive fire broke out at an Overland Park apartment complex, firefighters from across the metro are still battling working to get the ‘war zone,’ like scene under control. 

On Tuesday, fire officials determined the cause of the fire was accidental. Investigators say the fire at the Royale City Place apartments happened because of a spark from a welder's torch. 

Titan Built, the construction company involved in the apartment complex project, issued a statement at 7:45 p.m. about the investigation: 

Titan Built, LLC adheres to stringent safety protocols; in our 42 year history, we have never experienced an incident such as this.

Yesterday, a welding subcontractor was doing hot work, which very regrettably resulted in a fire. The Overland Park Fire Department has determined the fire was accidental.

We are very grateful for the heroic and incredible efforts of the various fire departments that responded to the situation. Our primary concern continues to be for the health and welfare of employees, surrounding neighbors and families.

We are working in partnership with the Block Multifamily Group to provide support to those displaced. We are deeply grateful to everyone who has reached out to help individuals who have been affected. We encourage donations to The American Red Cross and Christ Lutheran Church, which have been providing direct assistance to those affected.  

We will be working in lockstep with the Fire Department and other local authorities to get answers and continue gathering information, all toward the goal of establishing even more stringent protocols for our company and subcontractors going forward, exceeding federal guidelines to which we have always adhered. 

The fire started at the building of the $450 million City Place development in the area of College Avenue and Switzer Road. 

Three firefighters were transported to the hospital, but all are listed in fair condition. 

>>SLIDESHOW: Massive blaze breaks out at Overland Park apartment complex <<

Nearby homes caught fire as a result of the initial fire at the complex. Evacuations occurred as a precaution, according to emergency crews. 

Firefighters battled at least 22 house fires in connection to the initial apartment fire. Residents were advised to spray down their homes. 

The Overland Park Fire Department Public Information Officer Jason Rhodes says of those 22 homes, eight to ten of them were ‘significantly impacted.’

“Just an amazing incident yesterday, can’t say enough to everyone who showed up to help with this, just all hands on deck, Rhodes said. “This is kind of a once in a lifetime incident, you hope.”

Rhodes says everyone is accounted for, something he feels is ‘really fortunate.’

"To the best of our knowledge, everyone is accounted for, I think construction company accounted for all employees which is big, we know all the residents are safe and sound,” Rhodes said. “Knock on wood, really fortunate we didn’t have significant injuries or loss of life. Pretty significant damage to property but that’s about it.”

Overland Park Fire Chief Bryan Dehner said firefighters from Johnson County, Kansas City, KS, Kansas City, MO and Lawrence, KS have assisted in battling the blaze. 

Dehner says he anticipates firefighters remaining on scene for several hours. 

"When we first arrived, it was a dangerous fire. It was a significant fire," Dehner said. "We have three individuals at the hospital and we need them to be okay." 

Rhodes says crews have put out the fire at the apartment complex and are now down to just their teams at the scene. He says the morning efforts will focus on investigating each fire and making sure all flames have been put out. All of the fires will be investigated, individually, by the department. 

“When it gets daylight we'll start doing better assessments. We've got a team arson task force that will help with the investigation,” Rhodes said. “At about 8 a.m. this morning folks will all gather, start from the south then work north and work those fires one by one, contact those people and make sure everything is under control.”

Rhodes informed KCTV5 that people in the area reported smelling gas but he says this is likely a result of the fire instead of the cause.

"You know there were all kinds of reports about gas odors, sounds of explosions, that's not uncommon when you get a fire of this magnitude, Rhodes said. "Much of that is likely the result of the fire, not the cause of the fire. You get a big fire, things explode, things burn. That's not at all out of the norm to get those reports."

Firefighters working through the night did receive some relief early Tuesday morning.

"We've been able to switch out all of the crews, some of them here now were here yesterday but we've been able to at least switch them out and get them a break, Rhodes said. "We had so much manpower to help last night that we were able to start rotating crews through to at least rehab, get hydrated, and rested and cooled down. Even folks that are here have at least had a brief chance to rest."

Several law enforcement agencies are patrolling neighborhoods affected by the flames, only allowing those who live there to enter.

On Monday people who lived in areas near the blaze hosed down their homes to prevent them from catching fire as embers from the apartment complex and nearby homes floated through the air.

People who spoke with KCTV5 say they saw flames as high as 150 feet in the air and even saw fire spread to their neighbors homes.

One man said he quickly realized how dangerous the situation was and immediately jumped in to help.

“So we knocked on one door, there was nobody home. We knocked on the next door. It was a screen door. We opened it up and went in and there was a gentlemen by the name of Jim. He was sitting down in his chair with some earbuds in, just watching his TV and we were like ‘we gotta go, we gotta go,” resident Ben Palsson said.

Officials say the priority is security in these area’s.

The apartment complex was under construction at the time of the fire. 

Ken Block, with Block Real Estate Services, LLC, said their main concern is for all of those impacted by the fire, and for the safety of the firefighters and homeowners who are doing all they can to salvage surrounding homes.

"As of this hour, we have not been informed of any injuries at the CityPlace development, but we are still attempting to contact those who were working at the site today. The development is under construction. We are extremely grateful to all of the fire departments who answered the call, and for their heroic efforts. Our thoughts and prayers remain with those who are affected and will continue to be affected by this event."

Fire officials do not suspect foul play.

Copyright 2017 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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