Investigators shifted through the rubble Friday in an effort to determine what sparked an inferno at the Hampton Woods apartments.

One 20-unit building was completely destroyed, displacing 40 people from 29 families. They are now working to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Robert Anderson's apartment is now a pile of wood and ash covered in soot. His family pictures and other precious items are gone.

But he is counting his blessings.

"Thanks to the good Lord, I'm still able to be here to talk with you guys. That's the most important thing to me in this moment," Anderson said.

Residents from 30 other apartments were evacuated as a precaution, and their homes saw damage.

The American Red Cross provided food and clothing to those affected. In addition, three people received housing overnight. The remainder stayed with friends and families.

Hampton Woods management is working to get displaced residents into vacant apartments.

Thursday night, helpless residents could only watch as firefighters battled the three-alarm blaze. Some burst into tears and sobbed.

High winds fueled the flames. Firefighters had to flee the blaze, which caused the roof to collapse.

Because the high winds blew embers, four buildings were evacuated as a precaution. Firefighters also scurried to chop down trees in an effort to stop the flames from spreading.

The fire occurred at 16847 W. 68th St. at the Hampton Woods Apartments. It was reported about 7:15 p.m. Thursday.

There were no reported injuries but some pets were lost in the inferno.

This is the third apartment fire in Shawnee since Valentine's Day. Two people died a week ago from smoke inhalation after food was left on the stove, causing a fire. In addition, firefighters battled a large house fire on Super Bowl Sunday.

Hampton Woods is near Interstate 435 and Renner Road in western Shawnee.

The local chapter of the Red Cross is assisting those left homeless by the blaze. Crews from throughout the area assisted Shawnee firefighters.

Investigators believe the fire began in a lower level apartment, but the cause is still unknown.

"They're moving equipment to get closer to that area," Shawnee Fire Chief John Mattox said. "Then we'll get in there by hand and start taking out (debris) and hopefully make a determination on what caused this fire."

Because of the strong winds Thursday night, Mattox said this was one of the toughest fires he's battled in his career.

"The heat was getting worse and the flames were getting worse and their water wasn't helping," he said. "And it was nothing but the wind pushing that back onto them."

He said he wants to remind residents to make sure they have working smoke detectors.

Mattox said the Shawnee Fire Department will hold several town halls in the coming weeks at apartment complexes to discuss fire safety in the wake of February's apartment fires.

Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.


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