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Fire destroys 2 homes, damages another in St. Louis' Ellendale neighborhood

A spokesperson for the St. Louis Fire Department said the initial call for the fire was placed around 1 p.m. by someone who smelled smoke inside a home.

ST. LOUIS — Two homes were destroyed and a third heavily damaged Saturday afternoon in St. Louis' Ellendale neighborhood, just north of Interstate 44 near Hampton Avenue.

Capt. Leon Whitener, a spokesperson for the St. Louis Fire Department, said the initial call for the fire was placed around 1 p.m. by someone who smelled smoke inside a home on the 1900 block of Knox Ave. When firefighters arrived, heavy fire had consumed that home and had begun spreading to an adjacent home to the north.

Whitener said three people who lived in the home where the fire started were able to make it out safely. He said the fire might have started in the back of the home.

Several cats that lived in the home were unaccounted for, according to Nicki Ball, who said she is friends with the owners of the home.

Ball received a call about the fire from another friend and immediately drove from her home in the city's Tower Grove East neighborhood to see how she could help.

She said she brought clothes and started a GoFundMe campaign to help her friends, whom she identified as Harrison Massie and Sandra Manzoni, with unexpected expenses.

"We are really hoping we can raise money to help them rebuild their home," she said. "We were shocked. We saw the smoke from the highway coming on (Interstate) 44. It's devastating."

Ball said a third person, Eli Chang, also lives in the house. He was on a run when the fire started and returned home to flames and smoke.

Firefighters were able to save another home to the south of the home that initially caught fire.

The home's owner, Allan Smith, said it was "90% renovated." He said the interior was a "disaster" because of smoke and water damage.

"I, really and truly, where I stand on this, I praise the Lord no one was hurt. ... This can all be fixed," he added.

Whitener said wind was a contributing factor to how quickly the fire spread.

"When you have framed homes placed this close together, there's going to be fire impingement from one home to another," he said.

The tight residential streets in the area also hampered firefighting efforts.

"We had to go a significant distance to get water sources," Whitener said. "We have fire trucks up on Hampton (Avenue). We had to shut Hampton down and the railroad tracks just north of here because we had supply lines going across the railroad tracks."

A man who lived inside the second home that was destroyed was not immediately accounted for, but Whitener said neighbors indicated he was away from his home when the fire started.

Numerous vehicles and heavy equipment parked behind the homes were also destroyed by the fire.

Hampton Avenue was closed to drivers between Manchester Avenue and Interstate 44 for nearly two hours as the fire was brought under control.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

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