Wichita couple return home to find house on fire

Investigators are searching for the cause of a fire that heavily damaged a house near 13th and Woodlawn on Friday night.

The couple who live at the house at 1011 N. Whitfield were returning home when they smelled smoke in the area, Battalion Chief Joe Bickel said. When they pulled up to their driveway, they realized it was their home that was on fire.

Fire crews arrived to find heavy fire pouring from the area of a large porch on the back side of the four-bedroom house, which was built in 1950.

“Smoke was just pouring out of that garage,” said Pat Consolver, a neighbor, who had let her dog outside. “It was so thick — a choking kind of smoke.”

Within minutes, she said, the flames were shooting so high they caught trees in the backyard on fire.

A second alarm was called out to help control the flames, which spread throughout the 2,200-square-foot house. It took firefighters nearly 45 minutes to extinguish the blaze, and crews were dousing suspected hotspots even longer than that.

Damage was estimated at $300,000 — $200,000 to the house and $100,000 to contents.

“There was a lot of fire back there,” Bickel said.

Consolver said embers from the fire flew north into their yard, but they were able to prevent the fire from spreading.

“If the wind had been blowing like it was last night, it could have caught our house on fire, too,” Consolver said.

The Red Cross was called to help the couple find lodging, authorities said.