Fire investigators now know what likely ignited the explosion and fire that destroyed a house not far from downtown Wichita and critically injured a family of three last month.
No utilities were hooked up to the house in the 700 block of North Minnesota the morning of Dec. 20, officials have said. The family was using electric space heaters for warmth, connected to an extension cord run from the house next door.
“We’re confident we have the ignition source — most likely a space heater being utilized in the home,” Fire Marshal Brad Crisp said today. “Clearly, there was some type of combustible gas mixture present. What we don’t know is where that gas came from.”
Soil samples are being tested to see if the gas came from a well or a natural gas line or another source, Crisp said.
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“I would think we would have them this week,” he said.
Kansas Gas Service employees found a leak in a main gas line that ran parallel to the house along Minnesota, near Murdock and I-135. But officials have said what role, if any, the leak may have played in the explosion and fire is not clear.
The family staying at the house — a 28-year-old man, a 21-year-old woman and 2-year-old girl — were asleep at the time of the explosion and fire, Crisp said. They were found out in the yard by arriving firefighters and taken in critical condition to the burn unit of Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis for treatment.
The man has since been released, a hospital spokeswoman said. The woman and child are now in serious condition.
“There was nothing to suggest they were doing anything wrong,” Crisp said of the family.
While “borrowing electricity” from a neighbor is “not a great idea,” he said, there’s nothing to suggest it caused the explosion and fire.