5:45 p.m. update:
According to Battalion Chief of Special Operations Lane Pearson with the Wichita Fire Department (WFD), no additional victims were found following a thorough search of the structures.
The WFD is using heavy machinery to clear some of the debris that was making it difficult to search for victims. They have not been able to get into the basement of the two-and-a-half-story home to see if there are any victims there. They hope to have more information by Monday evening.
The one victim who has been found remains unidentified. He was an adult male.
On Sunday, Oct. 9, Pearman said that they are looking for more victims.
“What we’ve done today is because for a number of reasons, one of the reasons being that we are very familiar with and know that a number of homeless people take refuge inside these structures, and then combined with a number of the eyewitness statements, who’ve claimed that there’s likely victims, we had to bring in some heavy equipment today,” Pearman said. “We worked with the Sedgwick County Emergency Management and brought in some cadaver K-9s to help us pinpoint where to search for, and we’ve started that meticulous but real deliberate process of dismantling the structures piece by piece in an attempt to locate any additional victims.”
Although the WFD did not find any bodies, Pearman said he is growing concerned.
“We are growing increasingly concerned that we’re likely not dealing with a single fire victim, and that’s simply based on some of the behavior of the cadaver dogs, they did hit on a couple of places, and we haven’t completely exposed those as of yet.”
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – One person was found dead after a three-alarm fire burned two homes in downtown Wichita Saturday night.
According to WFD Battalion Chief Matt Lowen, reports of a fire came in at approximately 9:50 p.m. near the main intersection of W Murdock St and N Broadway.
Upon arrival, firefighters found that they had two houses involved in the fire and called for a second alarm immediately.
KSN’s Hannah Adamson captured a live look at the scene via Facebook live:
“Working house fire at Murdock and Broadway. Crews have heavy fire visible from two residences. Murdock being closed both directions of travel, Broadway will be heavily congested. Second alarm dispatched. #ictfire #icttraffic,” tweeted the WFD at 9:58 p.m.
One of the houses was a two-and-a-half-story home that was broken into apartments. It was 75% involved in flames at the time. The second house was just to the south. It was a one-and-a-half-story home that was “significantly involved” as well.
According to Lowen, due to the number of flames, a full search of the homes was not possible. It soon became a three-alarm fire.
“Street closures due to three-alarm defensive structure fire: North Market St and N Broadway Ave between Pine and Ninth St, and E Murdock between Main and Topeka are all closed to vehicle traffic in all directions of travel,” tweeted the Wichita Fire Department at 10:24 p.m.
Approximately 20-25 minutes later, crews were able to re-enter the home once the majority of the fire was knocked out. One victim was located deceased.
WFD did not disclose which home the victim was found in.
According to Lowen, both of the homes are vacant and were supposed to be unoccupied.
“Both of these structures were technically vacant, unoccupied, insulated for demolition here in the coming few weeks,” said Pearman. “Over the previous several months though, the fire department has become very familiar with both of these structures as we’ve ran not only, you know, various medical type emergencies with some of the homeless people that take up residence in these structures”
A joint investigation is going on between all Wichita fire investigation units as well as the Kansas State Fire Marshall’s office, who held the scene throughout the night. The public should expect Market St to be “shut down for probably the next day or so.”
The fire also caused power lines to go down in the area.
KSN News will update this story with more information as it becomes in.