The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 22, 2012

Apartment building fire in Wheaton kills five

By Ryan Richardson

WHEATON, Mo. — Five people, including a 7-year-old child, died early Thursday in a Wheaton apartment building fire that also left 16 people homeless.

The Wheaton Fire Department received the alarm at 3:23 a.m. from the Blue Ridge Apartments on South Hill Street. One of the complex’s two brick buildings was in flames when firefighters arrived from their nearby station, said fire Chief Bob Lombard.

Officials were not releasing the names of the dead, and the cause of the fire remained under investigation, Lombard said. He said the victims were found in two apartments in the building that was destroyed.

“We lost five people,” Lombard said. Two adults and the 7-year-old were found in one apartment, and two other adults were found in a nearby apartment, he said.

The apartment complex was made up of two two-story buildings, with eight apartments per building. The second building was not affected by the fire, but its residents were evacuated for the sake of safety. Lombard said authorities were relatively confident that residents of the second building would be able to return to their apartments at some point Thursday.

One of the apartments in the building that was destroyed was vacant at the time of the fire, Lombard said.

The town of Wheaton opened up its community building for immediate shelter, food and clothing needs of those displaced by the fire, Lombard said.

The area Red Cross organization later arranged for housing for 16 people as a result of the fire. Nigel Holderby, communications director, said by phone from Springfield that volunteers helped place the families.

“We had volunteers on the scene this morning to find a place for each of them,” Holderby said. “All 16 people are in hotels with monetary assistance in addition to food and clothing. Today, of all days, the community wrapped their arms around these families.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.

Immediate donation

SOLID ROCK BAPTIST CHURCH in Wheaton made a $1,000 donation Thursday morning to the Red Cross that was earmarked for those displaced by the fire, officials said.