Arson to Blame for Early Morning Fire at Apartment Complex in Topeka

By: Rae Chelle Davis Email
By: Rae Chelle Davis Email

"The lady in the apartment above us was screaming, 'It's a fire and I can't get out!" said Daniel Edmonds. He and his girlfriend were sleeping when they heard the screams. He got up to check it out. "I opened the door and I saw all the smoke and I just hit the ground and closed the door and said we gotta get out of here," said Edmonds.

By that time Firefighters had reached the scene and used a ladder to get the couple and the woman above them out. Edmonds says the complex has smoke detectors wired throughout the building but theirs did not go off.

"If she wouldn't have been screaming I don't know if we would have woken up and gotten out," said Edmonds.

Jeremy Latham was on his way home when he saw the fire trucks. "When I pulled up the stairwell was just completely in flames." Immediately he suspected foul play. "It looked like a fire that was started by somebody, not electrical."

Fire investigators agreed. Their report shows arson as the cause of the fire which caused $50,000 of damage.

"It's supposed to be a locked building and an arsonist somehow got in," says Latham. Concerns and questions surround the victims who hope the person responsible will be found before this can happen again.

Topeka Fire Investigators are requesting anyone with any information about the individual or individuals responsible for starting this fire to please contact the City of Topeka Fire Department’s Tips Line at 785-368-2488 or Crime Stoppers at 785-534-0007.
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Official Press Release from Topeka Fire Dept:

The Topeka Fire Department responded to a structure fire at 1514 SW 17th Street shortly before 1:55am Wednesday, May 28, 2008. First arriving fire officials reported heavy smoke showing in the second and third floor hallways and a second alarm (request for a full alarm response times two), was called to assist on scene firefighters with rescue operations.

A number of occupants were able to exit the structure on their own yet, firefighters rescued more than six people from their 2nd or 3rd floor balcony; those rescued ranged in age range from small children to adults.

Fire crews were successful at quickly locating and extinguishing this fire; containing it to the north stairwell of the structure.

The Topeka Fire Department’s Investigations Unit was notified and responded to this incident to assist with an investigation of this fire; the results of the investigation determined:
• Cause (of this fire) – Arson
• Classification (of fire) - Incendiary/intentionally set.
• Origin – North stairwell; on the stairs; between the second and third floors.
• Estimated dollar damage/loss - $50,000.00 (fifty-thousand dollars); $45,000.00 is estimated structural damage/loss and $5,000.00 is estimated content damage/loss.
• Although there were two people reportedly checked-out/assessed at the scene by firefighters for possible smoke inhalation related complications, both declined further medical attention.
• The Kansas Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross was notified and summoned to this incident to assist one adult, one infant and several juveniles with immediate post-fire related needs.

Topeka Fire Investigators are requesting anyone with any information about the individual or individuals responsible for starting this fire to please contact the City of Topeka Fire Department’s Tips Line at 785-368-2488 or Crime Stoppers at 785-534-0007.


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