Kayce McClure sat expressionless with tired eyes at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church in Holts Summit, saying she felt "numb" after an early Monday morning fire destroyed the nearby apartment building she and her two children lived in, displacing around 40 people.
"I'm eternally grateful that we were awake to where we got out; everybody's not hurt," she said. "But at the same time, that was everything."
First responders arrived a little after 2 a.m. at the Evergreen Condos, with fire already visible on the roof, according to a news release by the Holts Summit Fire Protection District. All tenants were evacuated, with no injuries reported.
Units from 12 public safety agencies worked at the scene, including fire departments from Holts Summit, South Callaway, Millersburg, Central Callaway, Fulton, New Bloomfield, Jefferson City, Osage County and Cole County. The Holts Summit Police Department, Callaway County Sheriff, Callaway EMS, Red Cross and Missouri Department of Transportation also assisted.
Volunteers from Pleasant Ridge transported tenants to the church by van, providing shelter from the frigid weather. Soon, local restaurants began donating food and area residents brought clothes, toiletries and blankets.
McClure, whose children are 2 and 8 years old, said she was among the first to call 911 after smelling smoke in her apartment.
"I went to put my 2-year-old back to bed, because he wakes up a lot, and so I kept smelling smoke," McClure said. "So I went and looked for it, and it was coming out of the wall in the closet."
Many tenants woke to a Holts Summit police officer pounding on the door, having to evacuate in the clothes they slept in and nothing but children in tow.
Everything is lost for McClure and her children. Among her belongings destroyed is the American flag which was draped over her brother's coffin after he died in military service six years ago. His medals are gone as well.
McClure said she doesn't know what's next for her family. They'll be staying at her grandfather's home in New Bloomfield while she sorts things out, thankful for the help offered by the Red Cross and Pleasant Ridge.
"My kids are handling it pretty well," she said. "My 8-year-old is the only one that really understands it."
Pleasant Ridge Pastor Nolan Wynn said he learned of the fire quickly, being Holt Summit's fire chaplain. The church opened its doors and transported victims while the fire was still being fought.
"We're just trying to show love to these people," Wynn said. "These are actually people that ride our van route. We pick up these families, so this is people we know. We're happy to help them."
Pleasant Ridge volunteer Chris Ronimous said shuttling tenants to the church went smoothly.
"It was more scary than anything, just cause of the little kids, you know," he said. "They didn't have clothes on, just diapers."
Those displaced by the fire were moved around noon Monday from Pleasant Ridge to a more permanent Red Cross shelter at Union Hill Baptist Church. Cots, food and other supplies were already set up for the more than 30 people who registered to stay at the shelter overnight.
Abigail Anderson, executive director of the Red Cross, Central and Northern Missouri Chapter, said the shelter will remain in place as long as people need it.
Some basic supplies — like underwear, socks, shower shoes and disposable towels — are needed, Anderson said, but other clothing donations are not currently being accepted. The most helpful donation is money, she added, saying families know what they need most, and money helps them pay for it.
The Red Cross gives those affected by disasters a client assistant card, which works like a debit card. The amount each family receives depends on the amount donated, Anderson said.
Donations can be made at redcross.org/donate, at Red Cross offices in Jefferson City or Columbia, or at the Union Hill Baptist Church office. Online donations can be earmarked for local chapters.
Jefferson City Public Schools said in a Facebook post that approximately 20 of its students were affected by the fire, and the district has reached out to check on their well being.
Lt. Scott Pasley with the fire protection district said the fire took about five hours to extinguish, being intensified by wind conditions. Icy terrain also made combating the blaze difficult, he added.
"There are approximately 30 units in this facility, so our primary concern was making sure everyone (was) safely evacuated and accounted for," Pasley said.
A different Evergreen Condos building was destroyed by a fire in 2014, started by children playing with matches or a lighter. Pasley said it was not possible as of yet to determine the cause of Monday's fire, but early reports suggested it may have been electrical.