Crime & Courts

Officials: Arson cause of Old Town fire

Officials have ruled arson as the cause of Wednesday night's fire at a commercial building on North Emporia in Old Town.

"We can certainly say it was arson," Wichita Fire Marshal Brad Crisp said Thursday. "We'll keep the exact cause of the fire close to the vest because there's obviously some folks we need to talk to first."

No suspects have been identified, but the investigation is continuing.

No one was in the building at 246 N. Emporia at the time of the fire, shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday. There were no injuries. Damage was listed at $30,000, including $20,000 for the structure, according to fire investigators.

Sedgwick County lists the property as owned by Branson Construction Inc. with an appraised value of $63,400.

Branson Construction once operated out of the building but went out of business around 2004, said Laurie Johnson, president of Branson and Associates, a commercial real estate business.

She said Branson and Associates leases the building from her mother's estate and uses it mostly to store paperwork.

"They're saying it's arson," Johnson said of fire investigators, "or a homeless person — up to mischief, I guess. That's what they indicated to me."

Firefighters brought the fire under control in about 15 minutes. Quick response by units from two nearby stations and a fire wall helped prevent the fire from spreading to a neighboring business to the north, Crisp said. A parking lot is south of the building.

Fire officials are asking anyone with information about the fire to call the Wichita Fire Department at 316-337-9148 or Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111.