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Official: Discarded cigarette caused west-side Wichita house fire

A fire investigator looks at the damage to a house in west Wichita that sustained over $600,000 damage.
A fire investigator looks at the damage to a house in west Wichita that sustained over $600,000 damage. Courtesy photo

How much does one cigarette cost? For one Wichita household, that answer is $600,000.

A house fire in the 7900 block of Meadow Park Circle on Saturday was “due to a discarded cigarette on the back deck” of the house, Wichita Fire Battalion Chief Stuart Bevis said Wednesday.

The fire occurred in a residential neighborhood just south of West 29th North between Ridge Road and Tyler. It was reported at 4:21 p.m. Saturday.

A neighbor’s surveillance video showed an occupant of the house smoking on the back deck, then later footage showed a small fire in the same area, Bevis said. The video provides “a pretty solid” record of how the fire occurred, he said.

Damage was set at $400,000 to the house and $200,000 to its contents, Bevis said.

“People tend to not think very much about those,” he said of cigarette butts. “They’re just refuse and get rid of them. But they are a very, very significant ignition source.”

The gusty winds and dry vegetation that are prevalent as spring arrives makes conditions particularly vulnerable to fires starting and spreading quickly, he said.

“If you choose to smoke, please dispose of your butts safely,” Bevis said.

That includes using appropriate containers. Plastic containers filled with discarded butts can actually become a fire starter if embers ignite on the other butts and then spread, he said.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger

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