A preliminary investigation has determined that careless smoking was the cause of a fire that destroyed North Kansas City business block, the ATF says.
Investigators say they were able to pinpoint the cause so quickly because of witness statements and videos.
A smoking porch is located on the back of the south side of the building. That is where officers concluded that the fire began.
The fire traveled from the smoking porch, up a wall and into the attic.
Wind drove the flames through the structure and into some void areas in the attic, causing the fire to rapidly spread and be hard to put out.
Investigators do not believe a person will be charged in connection to the fire.
“We don’t have a criminal investigation at this point, nor does North KC," said John Ham, Public Information Officer for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Kansas City office said. "It’s an accidental fire and so there was no intent by anyone to cause a fire. Unfortunately it happened and I don’t know that with specificity we could indicate the exact person.”
BUSINESSES LOOK TO REBUILD:
Those who lost everything inside the 13 businesses destroyed by Tuesday's fire in North Kansas City are looking to move forward.
One day later, Shani Enns and Amber Seater of Embrace Your Humanity hit the ground running at their new location - just down the street.
Enns is the owner and Seater is a trauma specialist at the business.
"I ended up crying in the store and leaving," Enns said. "Resilience is the path to healing when you experience a trauma. Getting right back into it is a way for us to help ourselves and help others.”
They hope to create a new comforting space for clients who have experienced trauma.
"For me to sit and cry, while it's healing, being in their presence is healing enough for me," Seater said. "I want to get back at it and do it.”
Both women say their friends, family, clients and even strangers have been extremely supportive and set up GoFund Me accounts.
The building owner has secured the property and will begin the demolition process during the next few days.
Firefighters stayed on the scene throughout the night as they continue to monitor what is left of the building that burned for over five hours Tuesday.
The fire broke out before 1 p.m. near the intersection of Armour Road and Swift Avenue. Fire officials on scene say they believe the fire started on the deck of a roof. Firefighters were able to put that out, but it had spread into the interior of the building to areas they couldn't reach due to high winds.
Crews from the North Kansas City, Gladstone and Kansas City fire departments battled the fire. North Kansas City police assisted with evacuations of nearby businesses.
Firefighters began their attack, working offensively for about 20 minutes before going into a defensive mode when they realized it wasn’t safe.
Officials say they practice fighting fires in older buildings like this. They know how the wind can move fire quickly in the area.
City officials with North Kansas City say there are 13 businesses in the building and everyone is accounted for.
Shani Enns founded Embrace Your Humanity, which is housed in the building. She says it was tough to see all her hard work go up in smoke.
That's when I knew. When I saw that flame, I thought everything we built is gone. It's not here anymore," Enns said.
Enns said she and those she worked with knew everything was gone.
"When I got here, one of my officemates was here and we hugged and we just started crying because we saw that everything was gone," Enns added.
Enns' business was able to find another location to temporarily resume business. Others in the area are hoping to do the same.
A man who lives nearby says the smoke alarms in his building were going off all day Wednesday even though the fire was a block over. He says, when he got into his truck Thursday morning he says it smells like he had a bonfire inside the vehicle.
ATF agents are assisting in the investigation into the cause of a large fire in NKC. Firefighters still working to put out flames. Updates on @KCTV5 pic.twitter.com/VHoq9w3FZw— Emily Rittman KCTV5 (@EmilyRittman) May 8, 2018Thick smoke is filling downtown NKC as water and debris drift down the streets. Some of the debris from this large fire is clogging storm drains. Firefighters are still working to get fire under control. Updates on @KCTV5 pic.twitter.com/IYADbSty0e— Emily Rittman KCTV5 (@EmilyRittman) May 8, 2018Many business owners and employees are heartbroken to see their building destroyed by flames. Firefighters are still working to get the fire under control in NKC. Updates on @KCTV5 pic.twitter.com/8DLvlBdiwd— Emily Rittman KCTV5 (@EmilyRittman) May 8, 2018Copyright 2018 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.