Cause undetermined for fire that destroyed Jefferson City apartment building

A firefighter stands facing an early Saturday morning blaze consuming an apartment building at the corner of Dunklin and Mulberry streets in Jefferson City.

A firefighter stands facing an early Saturday morning blaze consuming an apartment building at the corner of Dunklin and Mulberry streets in Jefferson City. Photo by Jeff Haldiman.

Twenty people were in need of shelter after a massive fire gutted a Jefferson City apartment building, early Saturday morning.

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Jefferson City firefighters pour water on an apartment building ablaze at the corner of Dunklin and Mulberry streets during the 4 o'clock hour on Saturday morning.

Undetermined.

That’s what authorities have decided to list as the cause of a massive apartment building fire early Saturday morning in Jefferson City.

Fire department reports showed the blaze was called in around 4:10 a.m. at 615 Mulberry.

When crews arrived, they found heavy smoke and flames coming from the roof and upper floor of the three level structure.

There were also numerous reports of people on the top floor needing to be rescued.

Jefferson City police officers joined firefighters in getting some residents out.

Others were rescued by firefighters climbing up ladders and bringing residents through windows and down to the ground on the Dunklin Street side of the building.

“We had a female on the third floor who was wanting to throw her child down to us,” fire department Spokesman Jason Turner said. “Luckily, we got the situation under control and got her and her child out. We had three or four rescues of multiple members of families.”

"We made a very aggressive attack to get to the fire, but eventually, the roof began to suffer structure damage, so we had to pull out our crews and attack the fire from the outside," Turner added.

A second alarm was called and the oncoming shift of firefighters was called in for support, some going to the fire scene, others going to man stations around the city along with members of the Cole County Fire Protection District, who were called in via mutual aid.

Six of the seven on-call fire trucks for the city were sent to the apartment fire.

Six ambulances responded to the scene, some forming a triage area for residents of the fire near the intersection of Dunklin and Mulberry.

Ironically, on Friday morning, ambulance crews and fire department personnel went through a mass casualty drill to handle events such as what they faced Saturday morning.

“Things went seamlessly this morning,” Fire Chief Bob Rennick said. “They anticipated what needed to be done.”

Many of the residents appeared to have gotten out only with their bed clothes on. Some were holding small children. Many were crying and hugging one another, using their cellphones to call friends or relatives or just standing and watching in the street as firefighters battled the blaze.

Three people were taken to local hospitals for treatment of smoke inhalation.

Damage from the fire is estimated at $500,000.

“There are too many factors to be sorted out right now to nail down a particular cause,” said Rennick “We’re still trying to talk with all parties involved. There were surveillance cameras at the property and those could help in the investigation.”

Rennick did say investigators agreed the fire started on a third floor landing in front of two apartments in the rear of the structure.

“The fire was so intense, it weakened walls and we couldn’t use the stairway to get to the third floor,” he said.

The Red Cross secured hotel rooms for those displaced by the fire and will be assisting them in trying to get their lives back on track.

Officials said they helped two families who had six members, one family with four members, one with three members, and one single adult.

If you want to help the families, the Red Cross does accept monetary donations.

To donate call 635-1132.

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