Wichita fire officials on Monday cautioned smokers to be extra careful after another fatality that may have been caused by careless smoking.
Curtis Taylor's death in a fire early Sunday at his duplex in the 500 block of North Edwards has not yet officially been blamed on smoking, Fire Marshal Brad Crisp said, but "it's likely that's what the cause was."
Four people have been killed in fires in Wichita this year, and three have been confirmed or suspected to have been caused by careless smoking.
"It's the leading cause of fire deaths for accidental fires in the U.S. —and in Wichita," Crisp said.
One of three fire deaths in both 2008 and 2009 were the result of careless smoking, too.
"A lot of times, people don't stop and think," Crisp said. "They've done it forever, and they think, 'That's not going to happen to me.'
"It only takes one time."
Laura Earle, 55, died Dec. 2, a day after she fell asleep while smoking in her home at 4509 S. Oak, near Seneca and 43rd South.
Mary Weaver, 55, died Jan. 6, two days after a fire in her apartment at 2021 N. Old Manor.
Sunday's fire was reported in the 500 block of North Edwards at about 4:30 a.m., Capt. Stuart Bevis said.
A man who lived in one half of the duplex awoke to the smell of smoke, and discovered smoke coming out of the other side.
Bevis said it's possible that Taylor, 62, was smoking in bed and fell asleep, but investigators are also checking whether a cell phone charger plugged in next to the bed may have shorted out.
Sunday's fire caused an estimated $60,000 in damage to the duplex — $50,000 to the structure and $10,000 to the contents, Bevis said.
If the man living on the other side of the duplex had not awakened, Crisp said, the death toll could have been doubled.
And if this had happened in an apartment building, he said, the number could have been much higher.
"It's not just you that can be affected by this," Crisp said of smokers.