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Suburban Kansas City apartment building fire ignites houses

By The Associated Press
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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A huge fire at an apartment building under construction in suburban Kansas City has sparked fires at several homes blocks away.

The eight-alarm fire broke out about 3:30 p.m. Monday at the multimillion-dollar CityPlace development in Overland Park, Kansas, sending plumes of smoke and embers toward homes in the suburban neighborhood nearby, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/2nLM3Hg ).

Once one roof caught fire, embers jumped from roof to roof, spreading the blaze, said Overland Park Fire Department spokesman Jason Rhodes.

"It's a bit of a war zone down there frankly," Rhodes said. No serious injuries were reported, although one firefighter suffered a minor injury, he said.

Some residents have been evacuated as a precaution.

Neighborhood residents described hearing an explosion before debris fell on houses.

"It sounded like a bomb," said Juan Roque.

Rhodes said it was largest fire he had seen in his 10-year career with the fire department.

"Nothing of this magnitude," he said. "This is big."

When embers started flying through the nearby neighborhood after the fire broke out, residents took their cars out of their garages in case they needed to flee.

"It was unbelievable," said resident Skip Willrett, adding the building where the blaze started is "completely gone."

Fires continued to break out at surrounding houses two hours after the first blaze.

"They're breaking out quickly," Rhodes said. "It's a very active situation."

Rhodes said he saw at least 12 houses on fire, but the number could be greater.

"The wind is not helping us," he added.

Neighboring fire departments are helping the Overland Park Fire Department battle the blazes.

Ken Block with Block Real Estate, the CityPlace developer, said in a statement that they are grateful for all the fire departments for "their heroic efforts."

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with those who are affected and will continue to be affected by this event," Block said.

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