Recovery efforts underway after fire

Efforts continue to help residents displaced by an apartment complex fire in Chanute early Thursday morning. One woman talked about her escape from the building.

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Local News

March 22, 2024 - 3:31 PM

The Kansas Fire Marshal’s office and Chanute fire and law enforcement investigage the scene of a fatal complex fire. Photo by COURTESY OF KANSAS FIRE MARSHAL/FACEBOOK

CHANUTE — Efforts are underway across the region to assist those displaced by a deadly fire at an apartment complex in Chanute on Thursday morning, as residents and the community cope with the tragic aftermath.

One person died in the fire at the Cornerstone Apartment Complex, 1610 W. 4th St. A cause has not yet been announced. State and local authorities continue to investigate.

Firefighters arrived a little after 1:22 a.m. Thursday to find the building engulfed in flames. The apartment building’s company president said the 24 units were fully occupied with sprinkler systems, fire alarms and smoke detectors that all appeared to function. The building was estimated to be about 15-years-old. 

Crews from Iola, Parsons and Thayer fire departments assisted in battling the blaze.

THE SOUND of a fire alarm woke Ann “Lauree” Gibson, age 82, at around 1:20 a.m. Thursday. 

In a telephone interview with Gibson Thursday afternoon, she said didn’t notice smoke and assumed it was a problem with the battery, then saw flashing lights through her window. 

Looking through the window blinds, she saw fire reflected in the windows of another apartment complex across the street. Perhaps because of her confusion caused by waking at such an early hour, it took a few seconds for her to understand that it was actually her building that was on fire.

Gibson lived on the north side of the complex, opposite where the fire started, which gave her time to escape as flames quickly engulfed the building. 

Gibson used her walker, which also held her reading glasses, Bible, and purse, and exited the building.

“I think I’m the only one who walked out with a billfold,” she said. She’s now staying at the home of a niece. 

Gibson expressed her concern for her neighbors, although she knew only a handful of them. A young woman with a baby lived across from her. A man who lived on the second floor is a veteran who is deaf, and another resident looked out for him. She heard reports that a resident who lived on the south end had been severely burned. 

An update from the Chanute Fire Department confirmed one person was life-flighted to a burn center for treatment. The number and severity of other injuries has not yet been determined, a spokesperson said.

Gibson spent most of Thursday on the phone with family, friends from her church and insurance companies. She wondered if anything would be salvageable, particularly family photos and important papers. Although her apartment appeared to suffer the least fire damage, she knows efforts to fight the fire likely left everything soaked and ruined. 

Gibson lived at the apartment complex for about five years. She had considered moving to Texas near her oldest son and expects she’ll move forward with that plan now. 

“I’ll just turn it over to God. That’s all I can do,” she said. 

NUMEROUS agencies, businesses and individuals responded to help with recovery efforts. 

The Neosho County Emergency Management Department is compiling a list of those efforts on its Facebook page.

The Red Cross set up a shelter Thursday at Chanute’s Central Park pavilion, 101 S. Forest, to aid those in need of shelter or other assistance. Most received assistance that day. The Chanute Tribune reported those who still need assistance should call 1-800 RED CROSS. Those who want to donate should go to redcross.org

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