Wichita official: Answers still being sought in house fire that killed four

11/27/2013 11:11 AM

08/06/2014 9:08 AM

Some answers that investigators are seeking in a fire that killed four people at an east Wichita home will have to wait, a fire official said Wednesday.

Although the autopsies have been completed, a finding on the cause of death is pending, Wichita Fire Marshal Brad Crisp said. He could say this much: The autopsies found elevated carbon monoxide levels, which is consistent with smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire, which was reported at 3:14 a.m. Tuesday at a double-wide mobile home near Central and Webb, also will remain under investigation, Crisp said. It will probably be early next week before investigators can obtain additional information they need about the fire’s cause. But investigators have been able to rule out an electrical malfunction in the structure, Crisp said Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier Wednesday, he identified the four victims as Amanda Nichols, 21; her son, Isaaca, 1 (relatives said he was nearly 2); Camaron McGowan, 27; and his son, K’dyn McGowan, 2.

Three people in the home, at 644 N. Goebel, escaped. Those three, plus a firefighter involved in the search and rescue operation and a neighbor who helped, sustained minor injuries, Crisp said.

The rescue crew found all four who died at the scene in a southwest bedroom, Crisp said. Of the three who escaped, one was in a northwest bedroom, and the other two were in a northeast bedroom.

Investigators think they might have found the point of origin of the fire, but Crisp said he couldn’t comment on it until other information is collected. Interviews were still being conducted Wednesday.

“The fire scene was fairly straightforward,” he said. “Now we just need to do the rest of the job” of putting the puzzle pieces together.

The four deaths in a single fire are the most since a 1987 fire that killed four children in the 3300 block of North Charles, he said. According to records going back to the 1960s, four deaths are the most in one fire, Crisp said.

Tuesday’s fire leaves the city with 10 this year, compared with five last year and 19 in 1979, which is the largest number in a single year, Crisp said.

Investigators still have conflicting information about whether a smoke alarm was functioning in the home on Goebel. Alarms can survive for a considerable length of time in a fire, but fire crews didn’t hear one in Tuesday’s fire, Crisp said.

Crisp thanked news media for providing information about the importance of smoke alarms and said the Fire Department has since received a number of calls from people who need help obtaining alarms and batteries because they can’t afford them.

People who need help getting alarms and batteries can call the Fire Department at 316-268-4441 or go to the Fire Department link at www.wichita.gov.

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