Cause remains mystery in overnight apartment fire

Fire investigators still aren't sure how a substantial apartment fire started in south Wichita early this morning.

The fire at the Acosta Oaks apartments at 2228 S. Oliver was reported at 1:24 a.m., Wichita Fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said. By the time fire crews arrived, "there was very heavy fire coming from the exterior staircase" of the apartment building, he said.

The blaze quickly became a three-alarm fire because of its size, he said. All of the residents of the building had escaped by the time firefighters arrived, he said. The apartments on the top floor were vacant, which Bevis said was a stroke of good fortune.

Escape ladders would have been needed to rescue residents from the upper floors, he said, because fire had already engulfed the stairwells.

The fire began in apartment 209, which is on the ground level, Bevis said. That apartment was gutted and others had smoke and water damage. 

Damage estimates were set at $750,000 for the structure and $60,000 for contents. Investigators are still on the scene late this morning, examining the remains of the fire for evidence.

A 51-year-old resident of the building that burned was taken to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis for treatment after she complained of neck pain, Bevis said. The injury did not appear to result from the fire.