Patients rummaged through the debris. They searched for anything spared by flames. If they found something to salvage, they cleaned it off. Patient charts. X-rays. Family pictures.

Patients rummaged through the debris. They searched for anything spared by flames. If they found something to salvage, they cleaned it off. Patient charts. X-rays. Family pictures.

Despite arsonists destroying his workplace, Dr. Larry Pribyl, a dentist, commended his patients’ actions after the blaze.

“They’ve been very supportive and understanding,” Pribyl said. “I don’t know anyone who could have a better patient base.”

The dental office was at 4437 S. River Blvd., just off U.S. 40 in Independence. Five dentists, one of whom was Pribyl, practiced at the building.

But last Wednesday, two men allegedly broke into the facility. Police say they set the place on fire and then apparently escaped.

The building quickly caught fire, and the blaze gutted the structure.

Pribyl, his colleagues and their support staff were “in a state of shock” in the days after the fire, he said.

Court documents estimated the loss at $750,000. But Pribyl said the building itself, without any of the pricey equipment inside, is probably about that amount.

 “It’s got to be close to $2 million,” he said. “Everybody’s materials were inside,” he said.

Patient records, charts and schedules, the backbone of any medical office, were destroyed.

But Pribyl said his practice was somewhat spared.

“We were very blessed,” Pribyl said. “Our patient charts and records were one of the few things in the fire that didn’t burn, which was a real miracle. Sure we lost some. But most of them, we had to copy them and reassemble them because they’re full of soot.”

The all-important patient schedule also was saved. This has allowed receptionists to contact patients about their upcoming appointments.

 The schedule was on a computer system that automatically saves the files each night. The computers were trashed, but “we have a service through the Internet that backs up the files,” he said.

In the aftermath, some of his approximately 1,800 patients started calling Pribyl, asking what they could do to help.

He’s currently practicing at two locations, one on U.S. 40 near the burned out office, the other in Kansas.

Dr. Tom Cates, another dentist who has about 1,500 patients, said he’ll start temporarily working out of a dental office next door in about a week. They were able to salvage a few of the records, but not that many. He said they’re waiting on permits from the city of Independence before rummaging through the rest of the debris where his suite was located. Pribyl got city clearance to sift through an area that used to be his office suite.

Cates said he had some patient information stored on computer hard drives that are in the rubble.

“This has been more than a nightmare,” Cates said.

Many patients of the various dentists are calling the office phone number, which is redirected to cell phones of receptionists.

“Right now we have a lot of patients who are calling us,” said one receptionist. “We don’t have a way of contacting them.”

Authorities this week released court documents describing the April 22 arson fire at the Eastridge Dental Facility at 4437 S. River Blvd.

The probable cause statement gives this account:

An Independence police officer was dispatched to a tripped business alarm coming from the south side door. The officer heard a door opening on the east side. He saw a thinly built black man exit the building. The man immediately ran back inside when the officer attempted to contact him.

Multiple officers arrived and surrounded the facility. Another suspect, a white male, opened the east door and contacted the officers. He refused to come out.

Officers could see the white man roaming inside the business. The officers saw a small fire on the furniture in the lobby where he saw the man.

The white man ran from the east side door. Officers arrested him after a brief foot chase.

Officers identified the white male as 21-year-old Kamel M. Elburki, of Kansas City,Mo. Jackson County prosecutors charged Elburki with second-degree arson, second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, all felonies.

Investigators found at least three points of origin where unconnected fires were set.  The fires had been set with readily available materials inside the building.

Authorities sifted through the rubble for hours following the incident, in search for the second burglar police believed may have still been inside. They found no body.

The suspect apparently had escaped either before or during the fire, police said.

They’re looking for the suspect, described as possibly a black or Hispanic young man.

If anyone has information about the case, contact the Independence Police Department at (816) 325-7300 or the TIPS Hotline at (816) 474-TIPS.

Michael Glover 4/29/09   jeff martin contributed to this sidebar report.