Two houses in southeast Derby were destroyed Monday afternoon when burning embers carried by strong winds ignited one house and then the other, said Brad Smith,the Derby fire chief.
“We got called this afternoon for a house fire,” Smith said. “When units arrived on the scene, we discovered we had two houses pretty fully involved.”
The call came at 2:55 p.m. from the 1600 block of East Cresthill. An hour later, the smoke-covered neighborhood was filled with units from police and fire departments.
The cause of the fire is unknown.
“We had something going on in the backyard, maybe somebody working on a lawn mower,” he said. “It started at one house and went over to house next door to the east and caught it on fire.”
Both houses were a total loss, Smith said.
“When I saw the smoke, I was a little bit south of here,” Smith said. “It looked bad and was bad.”
Wind gusts Monday afternoon were 30 to 40 mph and nearly started a third fire.
“While we were fighting these house fires, embers blew across the street and caught the backyard on fire of one of the houses across the street,” Smith said. “Fortunately, somebody saw it really quick and we were able to get it put out really quick.”
Multiple fire department units were called in from Sedgwick County, Mulvane and Derby.
Gary Kilian, 51, was at home at 1600 E. Cresthill, where the first house began to burn. A police officer pulled him out of his garage; he had suffered burns to the hands, arms and face, a family member told The Eagle.
Dwain Diehl, owner of the home at 1606 E. Cresthill, was not at home at the time of the fire.
Contributing: Jaime Green of The Eagle.