People jump to safety in overnight fire

By Phil Anderson
Topeka Capital Journal – April 13, 2014

topeka fire 4132014

A woman and three children were among several people who jumped to safety from their second-floor windows early Sunday when fire swept through a five-unit apartment building in southwest Topeka.

Two apartment residents were transported to a local hospital with what officials said were minor injuries.

The fire broke out around 2:30 a.m. in Building 2 at the Southbrook Apartment and Townhomes complex, 5120 S.W. 34th.

Topeka Fire Marshal Michael Martin said first-arriving crews found flames and smoke coming from the two-story building.

Martin said firefighters were forced into taking a “defensive attack” from the outset as the wooden stairs leading to the upper floor were already on fire. However, fire crews were able to rescue one person from the burning building.

Flames were especially visible at the north end of the building, though the entire structure was damaged and appeared to be a total loss.

By 3 a.m., all of the apartment’s occupants had been accounted for, with some receiving medical attention at the scene by paramedics from American Medical Response ambulance.

One of the two people taken to the  hospital by ambulance was injured from jumping from a second-story window, while the other — an elderly woman — suffered smoke inhalation.

Among those jumping to safety were Jamika Teel and Kayla Dishon, both 23. The couple were in a second-floor unit at the south end of the building.

Teel said he had gotten up to go to the bathroom when he saw “smoke coming into the apartment.” He then woke up Dishon, went through another bedroom and knocked a window screen before jumping around 15 feet to a grassy area.

Dishon quickly followed suit, “dangling” out of the window before dropping. Teel said he caught her as debris was falling from the exterior of the building.

By the time Teel and Dishon got out, other apartment occupants also were scurrying to safety.

Teel and Dishon both said they didn’t hear a smoke alarm sounding in their unit, something fire investigators said they were planning to look into.

At least three fire engines and one aerial unit were on the scene, with water coming from a hydrant at the north end of the block.

Five vehicles parked in front of the building sustained heat-related damage.

The fire appeared to be under control by around 3:15 a.m., though numerous hot spots continued to be doused.

One woman, who lived in another building in the complex, said she’d lived in her unit for the past 18 years. She said the complex, located just southwest of S.W. 34th and Fairlawn, was 20 years old.

Though no serious injuries were reported, residents in all five units of the building that burned were thought to have lost all of their possessions, as fire, smoke and water damage was extensive.

The Kansas Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the 12 people who were displaced with their post fire-related needs.

Fire investigators were called to the scene, but at 5 a.m. Sunday hadn’t determined a cause of the blaze. A dollar loss wasn’t immediately available.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

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