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Apartment building east of downtown damaged by fire

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, at 9:33 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, at 4:58 p.m.


Crews battle fire at First and Madison

Wichita fire Capt. Stuart Bevis gives details about an apartment fire east of downtown Wichita. (Jan. 28, 2014)

A young boy playing with fire started a blaze that heavily damaged a nearly 100-year-old apartment building Tuesday morning, authorities said.

The fire was reported at 9:11 a.m. at 2202 E. First St., a Sedgwick County dispatch supervisor said. That’s just east of I-135.

When fire crews arrived, smoke was billowing from the east side of the apartment building and flames were visible. The structure, which was built in 1915, had seven small apartments in it.

All of the residents home at the time of the fire were able to escape, fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said. Fire crews had to adopt a defensive posture to keep the flames from spreading to surrounding buildings. It took firefighters more than 90 minutes to extinguish the blaze.

The fire caused an estimated $250,000 in damage to the structure, Bevis said, which was a single-family residence converted to several small apartments at some point in the past. The fire caused such extensive damage, he said, the structure will be a total loss.

Given the way the structure was built, he said, flames would be able to easily spread from lower floors up into the attic and roof.

“Once they get into the walls,” Bevis said of flames, “it’s pretty hard to catch up. You’re chasing your tail.”

Investigators ruled out accidental causes for the fire, he said, and further questioning revealed a 4-year-old boy was alone in the first-floor bedroom where the fire began. Officials think he was playing with a lighter when the fire began, Bevis said.

The Red Cross was called out to assist eight adults and one child displaced by the fire, authorities said.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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