For the third time in a week, fire erupted in a vacant structure early Saturday, scaring Midtown neighbors and scrambling multiple fire units.
“I heard a muffled boom,” said Richard Watkins, who lives on North 16th Street. Mr. Watkins got up, went out onto his back deck, and all he could see was smoke. That was about 4:30 a.m.
“I went back inside and walked out front, where I saw flames and called 911,” he said.
What Mr. Watkins saw was an older, two-story frame house at 418 N. 16th St., located about halfway between Faraon Street and Buchanan Avenue, fully involved on the second floor.
No one has lived there since December, except for an occasional homeless person who might have broken in, Mr. Watkins said.
“With fire on the second floor, it was too dangerous to let firemen enter to search or attack the flames,” said Pat Linscott, acting battalion chief.
Initially, firemen contained the blaze, but they couldn’t put it out. Within a half-hour, flames broke through the attic roof.
Mr. Linscott ordered a two-man crew into the bucket on Truck 7, and sent it skyward to battle the roof. Engine 12 parked in front of the flaming house and raised its boom with a hose line to pour more water onto erupting flames.
Because of the danger to firemen, a KCP&L employee cut power so if a line fell, it wouldn’t electrocute anyone. Residents in the neighborhood were without power for about an hour.
For the next hour, firemen would attack a blazing area of the building. “The balloon construction allowed the fire to race up and down through the house,” Mr. Linscott said.
Sunrise revealed a smoldering structure, and vacant windows showed charred timber throughout.
While the department hasn’t ruled that an arsonist is working in the Midtown area, three fires in a week are disconcerting.
Neighbors need to keep an eye on vacant structures and report any suspicious activity, said Fire Chief Mike Dalsing, who came to the scene. Inspector Jason Ziph began an investigation, but no cause has been determined.
A fire also started with a small boom on Mount Mora Road last Saturday, causing $40,000 in damage, but no cause has been determined. A suspicious fire Tuesday on Buchanan Avenue destroyed another structure. All three fires in the past week have involved empty houses.