Nothing unusual to Wichita Fire Department crews

A fire broke out in a downtown Wichita building Sunday afternoon. Photo courtesy wichitafire.org

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – If you’ve listened to the scanner or kept up with the news, you may have noticed Wichita Fire Department has had some interesting circumstances in fires fought the past week.

Along with the Fourth of July calls, the Wichita Fire Department also dealt with an “excessive storage situation” on Tuesday morning where a man had so many belongings it made for difficult entry to the home. The department also put out two fires in the same building in the span of three days.

KSN asked if there was anything unique or challenging about the past week’s fires.

“Actually, that’s the deal for the Wichita Fire Department, or any fire department, or emergency response: is the unusual,” acting fire marshal Stuart Bevis said.

The fire on Tuesday at Gilbert and Edgemoor posed challenges in the previously mentioned “excessive storage situation” because the homeowner’s things filled every room, creating “fuel” for the flames. Bevis said anything flammable can become fire fuel. He equated it to “burning quicksand.”

“You don’t have any sound footing and all that material is either burning, about to be burned, or could be burning in any moment,” Bevis said.

The back-to-back fires at the empty high-rise at First and Main streets called for lots of units as backup. Firefighters had to break entry into the building and search all 10 floors for anyone in the building. Ten flights of stairs with 60 pounds of equipment plus an air pack could be overexerting to crews, so backup was called in to keep crews fresh.

“That’s not for equipment, that’s for bodies. We need people to go and start searching all those floors. You get worn out pretty dang quick,” Bevis said.

When the same building caught fire on Wednesday morning, it was deemed arson, indicating someone was present in the building though it is supposed to be empty. Crews had to repeat the search process.

“It is a pretty taxing operation but it’s something our department is prepared to do,” Bevis said.

Numbers for firework-related incidents are not yet available as some may be called in during the evening since Wichita can shoot fireworks off until midnight tonight.

Many firework-related incidents involve the disposal of the fireworks. Bevis advised to douse fireworks that have been shot in water and store in a metal container not directly next to the house.