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Official: Cause of industrial fire at Airgas Central still unclear (VIDEO)

Wichita firefighters tackle a fire at Airgas, a distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases at 2018 S. West St. The building was quickly evacuated and no injuries were reported. (Jan. 12, 2015)
Wichita firefighters tackle a fire at Airgas, a distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases at 2018 S. West St. The building was quickly evacuated and no injuries were reported. (Jan. 12, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

Fire investigators have a good idea where a major commercial building fire started Monday afternoon, but they’re still not sure how it started.

The fire at Airgas Central, 2018 S. West St., started just before 2 p.m. Monday and caused an estimated $1.7 million in damage to the company’s building and its contents, fire Capt. Kelly Zane said Tuesday.

The first fire crews on the scene went inside the building to fight the fire, which was visible on the roof as they arrived, Zane said.

“While inside, there were several explosions inside the building,” he said.

The crews then evacuated the building and adopted a defensive posture, which means the first priority is to keep the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings. The fire was under control in less than an hour.

The fire appears to have started on the southeast side of the roof, Zane said.

“There was work being done on the roof before the fire occurred,” he said.

The fire began where the roofing crew was adding a fresh layer of material to the roof, Zane said, but investigators aren’t sure what role – if any – that may have played in the fire’s ignition. The roofing contractors were not using cutting torches.

There is no indication of a gas leak ignited by a spark, either, he said. The business stores compressed gas cylinders. Some of those cylinders exploded in the fire.

There is no evidence that the fire was intentionally set, Zane said.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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