A fire destroyed an abandoned north Wichita church Wednesday evening, causing an estimated $50,000 in damage to the structure.
The flames broke out about 9 p.m. in the 1500 block of North St. Francis, Wichita Fire Marshal Brad Crisp said Thursday. Fire crews arrived on the scene to heavy smoke and flames and briefly entered the church before switching to defensive firefighting tactics – used when conditions are deemed dangerous for crews to be inside a building, Crisp said.
Within minutes of the retreat, the north end of the building collapsed, he said; about 25 minutes later, the roof caved in.
No injuries were reported.
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The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Crisp said fire officials have contacted the church’s owner to obtain additional information about the property.
The church was likely vacant at the time of the fire, Crisp said, but investigators remained on the scene Thursday to interview nearby residents about activity reported in the area over the past several weeks. Firefighters found no sign of forced entry, leading officials to “have some concerns that folks could have been getting in there to stay warm and to get out of the cold weather,” Crisp said.
The building’s collapse prevented fire crews from searching for possible victims Wednesday night.
“We are still concerned that since this was a vacant building that there could be homeless or indigent folks that were trapped inside,” Crisp said, “and we’re going to attempt to take measures to get a good search done.”