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Cause of fire that damaged 1880s building downtown still unclear, officials say

A fire early this morning in a downtown Wichita apartment building dating back to the 1880s caused an estimated $75,000 damage, fire officials said.

The fire was reported at 12:44 a.m. at 440 N. Topeka, a Sedgwick County dispatch supervisor said. It took firefighters a little more than an hour to extinguish the blaze, which heavily damaged one apartment and caused smoke, water and fire damage to the rest of the structure as well.

"There was fire visible from the first and second stories" when fire crews arrived, Fire Marshal Brad Crisp said.

Investigators still aren't sure what started the fire. No one lives in the building, which was built in 1885. No utilities are active in the structure, but Crisp said that doesn't mean the fire is an arson.

"Folks have been using that to get in and out of the weather," Crisp said. "It could have been a warming fire gone wrong, it could have been smoking."

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