The fire that gutted a bedroom and left three members of a family with minor injuries Tuesday in south Wichita could easily have had a much grimmer outcome, a Wichita fire official said Wednesday.
A 4-year-old boy playing with matches ignited the sheets on his sleeping mother’s bed shortly after 12:30 p.m. at 4501 S. Lulu, north of 47th Street South and east of I-135, fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said. His screams awoke her, and she was able to grab the boy and an 18-month-old son and flee the rapidly expanding fire.
All three suffered minor smoke inhalation, Bevis said, but they did not require hospitalization.
“The bed mattress was a memory foam mattress,” Bevis said. “The fire was very intense in that room once it got going.”
The fire caused an estimated $43,000 in damage, Bevis said. It was primarily confined to the back bedroom.
The incident is a fresh reminder of what can happen when children play with matches or lighters, he said.
“They’re a deadly weapon,” Bevis said. “Unfortunately, most people desensitize when it comes to matches or lighters. They’re all around us.
“They wouldn’t typically leave a loaded 9mm gun on the table … or a commando knife.”
But matches or a lighter aren’t given the same consideration, he said.
Children are naturally curious.
“They see the things in use, they’re going to want to use them,” Bevis said.
If ignition sources such as matches or lighters are not accessible, “it takes that temptation away,” he said.
That leaves one less thing for parents to worry about.
“No matter what some people think, there is no way to keep an eye on their kids 24/7,” Bevis said.
None of the fire deaths in Wichita over the past four years were attributed to fires started by children, according to statistics compiled by the investigations section of the Wichita Fire Department.
But the 101 fires started by children either intentionally or accidentally caused more than $1.3 million in damage, Bevis said. Those statistics exclude fires to which investigators were not called.