Joyland building damaged by fire

A building at Joyland caught fire Saturday, authorities say, causing the latest damage to Wichita’s defunct amusement park.

Wichita fire battalion chief John Turner said officials aren’t sure yet what sparked the flames, but early evidence indicates no one was in the building when the fire started shortly before 7 p.m. Someone driving on I-135 saw smoke coming from the area and called 911 to report a possible fire, he said.

When fire crews arrived at 2801 S. Hillside, smoke and flames were coming from one building, located on the north side of the park. Firefighters cut holes in its roof to help extinguish flames and ventilate the structure. The fire was out in about 30 minutes, Turner said.

Seven fire units responded to the scene, he said, “due to the hazards and heat.”

The building was used to store maintenance materials. Turner said it’s possible some of the materials ignited and sparked the fire, but a cause has not been determined.

Alex East, 18, and Kira Johnson, 25, said the fire is a minor setback in their plans to refurbish the defunct park, but they plan to push forward.

The pair lead Wichita nonprofit Restore Hope, a grassroots organization trying to raise $10 million to buy and restore Joyland.

“The fire was a little scary at first, but it’s not going to stop anything,” Johnson said.

East agreed. He said the building was one of the last still secured on the property. Others were broken into and vandalized after the park owners Margaret Spear and her late husband, Stan Nelson, shut down the closed for its final season in 2006.

“A lot of the other buildings we don’t have to worry about so much because they were going to have to be restructured anyways. So the only two big concerns we have are the roller coaster and the Whacky Shack,” he said.

“You just keep pushing forward.”

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