‘Everything is gone’: Wichitan speaks out after apartment fire

Local

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – “First time starting over from almost zero belongings,” said James Lee Gillenwater, Kingston Cove Apartment resident. “Just whatever is here in the truck with me.”

Gillenwater said as he sat in his car Monday morning. He is one of the residents at Kingston Cove Apartments in south Wichita.

Early Monday morning, he went to walk his dogs. When he returned, his apartment was on fire.

“I basically ran in and tried to put out what I could, but no, it was blazing so far at that point,” he said.

Gillenwater quickly called 911. The fire spread through six apartments in his building, all within the same stairwell. The fire injured five people, one of those being critical.

Gillenwater is suffering from some burns.

“Forehead burn, neck burn, ears leaking a little bit.”

His apartment was entirely covered in ash.

“Everything is gone. Everything is black and crumbling,” he explained. “I had tons of antique furniture and stuff but no big deal. You can really accumulate that over time.”

Gillenwater is most upset over items he finds irreplaceable. His mother, Theresa, used to live in the apartment with him so he could take care of her. Unfortunately, she passed away four months ago.

“My mom’s ashes and then my mom’s pictures, my mom’s jewelry. Just all of my mom’s stuff is kind of the most important to me,” he said tearing up.

Now, Gillenwater and a dozen others are searching for a place to live.

“I’m just wondering where I’m gonna spend the night? What apartment I’m going to move into next week or whenever I can? I guess I’m just in the truck with these dogs until then,” he said.

Wichita Fire Department said the cause of the fire was an unattended candle.

Gillenwater wants everyone to be careful, especially when using a wall-hanging candle.

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