One dies from overnight fire at St. Robert, Mo. apartment complex; fire ruled accidental in preliminary investigation

Fire at Sunset Village Apartments in Waynesville, Mo.
Fire at Sunset Village Apartments in Waynesville, Mo.(Travis Keith)
Published: Feb. 14, 2021 at 5:11 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 14, 2021 at 6:18 PM CST
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ST. ROBERT, Mo. (KY3) - One person has died after a large structure fire overnight damaged the Sunset Village apartment complex in St. Robert, Missouri.

The victim who died has not been identified by name, age or gender. Investigators have not released his or her exact cause of death.

Another person was hospitalized with smoke inhalation injuries, while a firefighter was also treated for minor injuries at a hospital, according to the Waynesville Rural Fire Protection District.

Investigators say, according to a preliminary investigation, the fire was accidentally started while someone was cooking.

The Doolittle Rural Fire Protection District and the Waynesville Rural Fire Protection District responded to the apartment complex around 1 a.m. Sunday, arriving to heavy flames. Every available fire department in Pulaski, Phelps and Laclede Counties assisted as the fire damaged the complex for several hours.

Firefighters say the efforts were hampered by extreme cold, which caused some of the water supply to freeze. Crews began with fire suppression, then entered the building to perform search and rescue operations.

One resident tells KY3 he saw people crawling through windows just to get out of the burning building. He says a lot of people are gathered in a lobby, which was not impacted by the fire, to keep warm.

“I noticed there was an older lady out there, standing by the door. I turned to see her, next thing I know, there’s a bunch of flames right behind her. I rushed over to grab her,” said Travis Keith from Sunset Village. “Seeing that people are trying to jump off the roof, the overhang up there, people are rushing away, trying to get out of there.”

Several residents were treated by EMT’s at the scene Sunday morning. The fire and smoke was controlled after several hours, and crews have left the area Sunday afternoon.

The Red Cross is working on a suitable living arrangement for every resident impacted by the fire. Most residents have been place in a motel temporarily to stay warm. The Red Cross is also collecting donations to help those impacted by the fire.

The Missouri Division of Fire Safety Marshal is investigating the fire. Additional details in the investigation remain limited, but we will update as more information becomes available.

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