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Wichitan’s woodworking shop decimated by fire

Ivan Rossiter’s woodworking shop, across the street from his home in the 1400 block of South Santa Fe, burned Saturday night. The Wichita Fire Department estimates losses from the blaze to be about $250,000. (Dec. 10, 2016)
Ivan Rossiter’s woodworking shop, across the street from his home in the 1400 block of South Santa Fe, burned Saturday night. The Wichita Fire Department estimates losses from the blaze to be about $250,000. (Dec. 10, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

A fire at his shop Saturday night may have put an end to Ivan Rossiter’s woodworking hobby.

The 78-year-old’s large garage-like shop across the street from his home in the 1400 block of South Santa Fe caught fire, sending flames into the air and smoke billowing toward downtown Wichita late Saturday.

“It’s over,” Rossiter said of his woodworking career when reached by phone on Sunday. “At my age, I won’t be able to replace all my tools. There’s no way to start over now.”

Firefighters were called to the blaze at about 10 p.m. on Saturday. Despite the sirens, multiple firetrucks and watching neighbors, Rossiter – who wears hearing aids – was not made aware of the fire, he said, until around 12:30 a.m.

A neighbor used a ladder to climb to a second-floor deck and pound on his door to wake Rossiter up.

“It was devastating,” Rossiter said. “I think I’m still in shock. I’ve lived here for 54 years, and my entire world was in that shop.”

Rossiter said he retired from the woodworking business about five years ago yet still took on projects.

For years, Rossiter and his ex-wife operated a business out of the shop, in which blocks of wood to be used by other woodcarvers were produced. From the blanks, woodcarvers all over the world produced pieces of artwork.

The business was called “Rossiter Ruff-Outs” and was in operation for about 15 years. It used to produce about 20,000 blanks annually.

No one was injured in the fire. Wichita Fire Department investigator Branden Arnold said the total loss for the blaze is estimated to be about $250,000 ($150,000 for the structure).

The cause of the fire, Arnold said, is still under investigation.

Rossiter said it’s not likely he will replenish his collection of tools, because they weren’t insured.

“I had some fancy tools in there,” Rossiter said. “There were probably about three or four projects completed in there, and they’re gone now. I’m not sure what I’m going to do next.”

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