Friday, November 28, 2014

Mystery child alerts tenants to blaze above

By ABBY ECKEL and DOUG CARDER, Herald Staff Writers | 6/17/2013

A mystery boy apparently helped save the life of at least one tenant in a burning apartment building this weekend in Ottawa.

Brian Sage said the boy, whom he didn’t know and hadn’t seen before, woke and alerted him to the blaze at the five-unit apartment building at 216 W. Third St., Ottawa.

A mystery boy apparently helped save the life of at least one tenant in a burning apartment building this weekend in Ottawa.

Brian Sage said the boy, whom he didn’t know and hadn’t seen before, woke and alerted him to the blaze at the five-unit apartment building at 216 W. Third St., Ottawa.

“I was sound asleep in my bed and some young kid kicked in the door and started yelling, ‘Get out! Get out! Get out!’” Sage said. “I was glad the kid kicked in my door when he did.”

Having been woken in the middle of the night, Sage and other tenants said they were unable to provide a detailed description of the person who alerted them to the fire.

Ottawa firefighters responded at 1:26 a.m. to a fire on the third floor of the multi-unit residence, according to an Ottawa Fire Department report.

An electrical short touched off the fire, causing $55,000 in damage to the structure and contents, based on initial estimates, Jeff Carner, Ottawa fire chief, said.

Sage lived on the second floor of the apartment building, he said. The smoke detectors in his unit were not sounding at the time the boy woke him early Saturday, he said.

“[Maintenance] was supposed to have smoke detectors in the [units], and they were in there, but they didn’t go off because they didn’t check [the smoke detectors],” Sage said. “One fire chief or whoever said there was one [detector in the building] going off.”

As well as not being alerted by smoke detectors, Sage said, a deck and set of stairs intended to serve as a fire escape at the apartment building had been torn down with the idea it would be rebuilt. In their absence, no other escapes were available, he said.

“My back door to the escape deal didn’t open and [maintenance] knew about it and they tore down that deck so everybody couldn’t get out,” Sage said. “That was a death trap. We was in a death trap.”

Tenants apparently fled the building through the main entrance, which forced them into the path of the fire, he said.

Even though Carner said the fire damage was contained to the third floor, with the first and second floor units receiving some light smoke and water damage, members of the Parsons family, who also lived on the second floor, said none of their belongings could be salvaged.

“We lost just about everything from smoke damage and water damage,” Lewis Parsons said of he and his wife’s items in the apartment unit. “The Red Cross helped us, but if we can’t get an apartment or house shortly, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

The Parsons said their smoke detectors also didn’t sound during the fire. They also were alerted to the blaze by a mystery person whom they had not previously seen at the apartment building.

Karen McIlvain, property manager of the complex and an employee of Great Southern Bank, 2040 S. Princeton St., Ottawa, which owns the multi-unit residence, said she didn’t know where the smoke detectors were located or how many were installed in the residence.

McIlvain said she’s helping assist tenants in finding new housing in the same price range as the rent currently paid. The bank-owned property, which has been listed with a Crown Realty agent in Paola, was built in 1930 and previously was listed for $115,000, according to the Crown Realty agent’s web page Monday night.  

“The bottom four [apartments] could possibly be [livable], but we’re not sure what the insurance company is going to let us do,” McIlvain said. “ ... The bank is going to help [tenants] relocate by giving them money for deposit and rent.”

Many tenants are without a place to call home, Sage said, but he’s just thankful he and the other tenants got out safely.

“I’m just glad we got out alive,” Sage said. “I’d like to meet the kid that actually kicked in my door.”

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