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Official: Cold weather can bring increase in house fires

Fire crews at the scene early Wednesday morning of a fatal fire in the 1300 block of South Water. (Nov. 12, 2014)
Fire crews at the scene early Wednesday morning of a fatal fire in the 1300 block of South Water. (Nov. 12, 2014) Wichita

As cold weather swept into the Wichita area this week, authorities began seeing an uptick in residential fires.

At least 11 residential fires were reported as of 9 p.m. Wednesday, including one that killed a 9-year-old boy on South Water.

Investigators haven’t officially determined the cause of the fatal fire or the others reported Wednesday, Battalion Chief Stuart Bevis said.

“We’ve been extremely busy the last few days,” he said. “That tends to happen with a cold snap.”

After basking in a record-tying 77 degrees Monday afternoon, Wichita saw Wednesday’s overnight temperatures dip to 17 degrees. At the time of the 4 a.m. fire on South Water, the wind chill was 3 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Wichita.

Bevis warned residents to be cautious as the need grows to keep warm.

While noting that space heaters are fairly safe, he said overuse can overload electrical systems in older homes and lead to fires.

Some of those fires break out in attics, above the coverage level of smoke detectors, he added.

“You can have a full attic fire before we even know we have an issue,” Bevis said.

Early cold weather sometimes means people are using fireplaces and furnaces before they have been serviced or cleaned, he added.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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