He was only gone for about 10 minutes.
But by the time he returned to his house near Wichita State University at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, his Christmas tree was ablaze.
Fire investigators blame Christmas tree lights for the fire, which heavily damaged the house at 2903 E. Maplewood, near 21st and Hillside.
"We had the fire coming from the tree," Wichita Fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said. "The only thing we had on the tree was the lights."
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Investigators set the damage at $30,000 to the house and its contents.
The house had a history of electrical issues, Bevis said, but the man and his adult son who lived there had not reported them or fixed them.
The American Red Cross was called to provide assistance to the two men, spokesman James Williams said. That included shelter, food, warm clothing, winter outerwear and personal hygiene items such as toothpaste and shaving supplies.
Bevis said the fire serves as a reminder to have electrical issues addressed immediately — and to keep cut Christmas trees well-watered during the holiday season.
"There's not a better fuel in the world than a Christmas tree that's somewhat dry," Bevis said.