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Woman, 53, dies in house fire east of Derby

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Sep. 10, 2012, at 8:04 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Sep. 10, 2012, at 9:26 p.m.

Family members say a 53-year-old woman died early Monday when flames engulfed a sprawling two-story home southeast of Derby.

Sedgwick County Fire Marshal Tavis Leake confirmed someone died in the fire near 87th Street South and Greenwich Road, but he did not release the victim’s name.

Relatives told The Eagle that the victim was Kathy O’Brien, 53.

O’Brien had worked for 12 years as an art director at Pioneer Balloon Co. in Wichita.

Leake said firefighters “immediately went defensive” upon arriving at the house, fighting the fire from the outside because it was too dangerous to go inside. He said the house was 50 to 60 percent in flames when firefighters arrived.

A passerby who noticed a glow in the sky called emergency dispatchers about 1:45 a.m. Monday to report the fire, Sedgwick County fire Division Chief Doug Williams said.

The fire had a “great advance start,” Williams said. “Our crews saw the flames from several miles away on their way.”

The roof of the house fell in and burned, he said.

“We have so much debris in there, we have brought in heavy equipment,” he said at the scene.

Kathleen O’Brien, the victim’s stepdaughter, said that Kathy O’Brien had been living alone in the house at 10219 E. 87th Street South. She said Kenneth O’Brien, who was her father and Kathy O’Brien’s husband, died in February.

Kathleen O’Brien’s mother, Kay Barker, said the two-story, 3,000-square-foot home was built in 1979.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The smell of smoke still clung to the air Monday afternoon.

Sedgwick County firefighters were assisted by Rose Hill, Derby and Mulvane firefighters, Leake said.

Contributing: Mike Hutmacher of The Eagle

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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