WICHITA, Kansas – Firefighters are blaming an improperly discarded cigarette for an apartment fire in west Wichita. The blaze at the Raintree Apartments near Central and Ridge caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and displaced more than a dozen families. According to fire crews, it started just after 5 p.m. and was under control in about 20 minutes.
People living in the apartment building are picking up the pieces and looking for someplace else to stay after a fire ripped though the building’s attic.
It started on Ariel Whitman’s second floor balcony.
“All of a sudden I hear him say fire and my boyfriend runs in and grabs a towel from the bathroom and I pull out my ear buds and I’m like what’s going on I see it all lit on fire and I was like freaking out, we were all getting water and we were filling up little cups and we were like trying to throw it on it and everything,” Whitman said.
The small cups of water no match for the blaze that spread quickly through the top floor.
“When it does get up in the attic it takes a lot of crews, a lot of manpower they got to get up and get all the ceiling tiles pulled down and they actually have to fight the fire up above them,” said Lt. Scott Brown with the Wichita Fire Department.
Firefighters say a cigarette from the upstairs tenants sparked the blaze, despite an apartment rule banning smoking within 10 feet of the building.
“My boyfriend’s friend that is staying with us was smoking a cigarette, but he put it out so maybe it was the heat triggered it, I don’t know,” Whitman said.
The Red Cross is assisting those without a place to stay. Everyone here from firefighters to residents glad no one was hurt.
The fire, including the personal belongings of those displaced totaled $600,000.
Firefighters say the residents responsible for sparking the fire could face fines from the city.
Raintree Apartment Fire (KSN Photo: Courtesy Katie Mahr)