Overland Park apartment fire started by discarded cigarette, say investigators

Crews from at least three local fire departments responded to the blaze at Aspen Lodge Apartments along 81st Terrace in Overland Park Tuesday morning. As of Tuesday morning, no injuries had been reported. Photo credit Mike Frizzell.

Investigators have determined a carelessly discarded cigarette sparked a Tuesday morning fire at an Overland Park apartment complex, which displaced 10 residents.

Dispatchers began receiving calls just before 7:30 a.m. Tuesday reporting a large fire at 10217 West 81st Terrace in the Aspen Lodge Apartments.

Responding firefighters and police officers reported heavy smoke visible as they approached the complex.

In a release Wednesday, Overland Park Fire Department Media Manager Jason Rhodes said a resident admitted to investigators putting out a cigarette in a planter that contained potting soil.

“Potting soil often contains organic materials that can become combustable when dry,” Rhodes said in the release. “It’s believed the fire started on a back balcony and spread to the surrounding floors.”

Rhodes says the first firefighters on scene reported heavy fire from the roof of the two-story apartment building.

“Firefighters began attacking a rapidly spreading fire on the backside and roof of the building, while additional crews began a search to be sure everyone was out safely,” Rhodes said. “The search effort was briefly interrupted by a partial roof collapse, but crews quickly stopped fire spread and resumed search efforts.”

Fire crews survey the damage after the fire had mostly been put out Tuesday morning. Photo credit Mike Frizzell.

A second-alarm assignment brought in additional firefighters from the Lenexa and Shawnee fire departments, along with additional Johnson County Med-Act ambulances and Med-Act’s firefighter rehab unit.

Rhodes says firefighters had the blaze under control in about 40 minutes and worked for another hour to extinguish hotspots and overhaul hard-to-reach areas.

“Wood roofs likely contributed to the rapid spread of the fire,” Rhodes said. “An adjacent building suffered very minor roof damage from exposure to the fire.”

Apartment management was able to relocate eight of the displaced residents within the complex. The Red Cross is assisting the remaining two occupants, according to the fire department.

Rhodes says the building will likely be a total loss.