Video above: Monday 6 p.m. update
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A 48-year-old man died after a house explosion in west Wichita Sunday afternoon. A police spokesperson identified the victim as Kendal James. Now, investigators are looking into whether fireworks were being made in the home.
Wichita Fire Department (WFD) Battalion Chief Jose Ocadiz said 911 got calls about a fire at a home near South Parkridge Street and West Blake Street around 5:30 p.m. Sunday. As firefighters were on the way, 911 got follow-up calls about explosions at the address.
Drone footage of the active scene:
Ocadiz said when firefighters arrived, they witnessed one of the three explosions and had to fight the fire defensively.
“While we were still deploying our line and beginning our fire attack, that other explosion, once that one occurred, our incident commander right away moved our crews back, and we were able to use our water streams to be able to get from a distance that’s going to be safe for them and try to knock a majority of the fire down,” he said.
He said the explosions appeared to be from fireworks in the home.
“There have been some reports of, initially, of fireworks being manufactured, so right now, all of that information is still being reviewed,” Ocadiz said. “He was known to be able to have fireworks here at this location, so I don’t know if the police department would have any additional information from that standpoint, but that’s just the information as the investigation continues to go on.”
Monday 10:30 a.m. news briefing:
He was asked if the fire department found commercial fireworks in the home.
“Don’t know exactly the types of fireworks or the chemicals that were involved in the fire itself,” he said. “The Wichita Police Department responded with their EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) team, and they did find some fireworks that they were able to take off-site and take it to their bomb range, but at this time right now, it’s unknown specific types and kinds of and the amount of fireworks.”
When Ocadiz was asked about whether the home had a permit for fireworks, he repeated that the explosions are under investigation.
He said the Kansas Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting the WFD with the investigation. He said that is not unusual in fatal fires.
The WFD said a woman who lives in the home was not in the house at the time of the fire but showed up later. Firefighters said they found the pets that died during the incident.
The investigators will also be looking for any damage that may have happened to nearby homes.
“There will probably be some exposure damage from the neighbors located just to the west of this address itself,” Ocadiz said.
Craig Hubbard lives nearby.
“I just heard a huge explosion, like a bomb going off, and it rattled like the windows,” he said.
Witness video footage:
“The third explosion happened as I was standing there, and debris landed everywhere, and some went back behind me, and I was starting to walk off, and some lady is like, ‘This is on fire over here,’ like some shingles caught on fire on the grass back behind me,” Hubbard said.
Zach Sherman also lives in the neighborhood. He said it felt like an earthquake.
“I heard like a booming sound and like the house shook and everything,” he said. “I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then all of a sudden, we go outside and just see all the smoke coming up.”
Both men said it was a shock for the neighborhood.
“Just crazy. It’s not something you expect, and I don’t know what went wrong. But It’s not something you expect in a neighborhood as quiet as this,” Sherman said.
“Pretty mellow neighborhood … everyone’s pretty mellow,” Hubbard said. “Nothing crazy ever happens, but yeah, that changed today for sure.”