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Archive for Thursday, June 26, 1997

FIRE AND MEDICAL CREWS BATTLE THREE FIRES

June 26, 1997

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Blazes in two apartment complexes and a duplex occupied firefighters throughout the morning and afternoon.

Three separate fires throughout the Lawrence area on Wednesday kept Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical personnel on the move for much of the day.

A firefighter suffered minor injuries at one of the blazes.

The calls began at 12:02 a.m. Wednesday, when crews were called to a duplex fire at 3619 and 3621 Brush Creek, in southwest Lawrence. The fire caused about $12,000 damage to 3621 Brush Creek. The adjacent side of the duplex received only smoke damage, according to fire reports.

The fire was being investigated as suspicious.

"Anytime you have an unoccupied residence where the doors are open and you have a fire, it's suspicious," Fire Battalion Chief Bill Stark said.

Investigators sifted through the gutted duplex for the better part of the day.

At 10:34 a.m., fire and medical personnel responded to a second fire in an apartment at 530 Eldridge. A backpack sitting on a stove caught fire. Damage was estimated at $1,000.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday, five engines and three ambulances responded to Park 25 Apartments, 2401 W. 25th, just east of Holcom Park. Some crews were already training in the area, so the official response to the apartment complex resembled a small army.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Amanda Tauscher, a resident of a smoke-damaged apartment next door, nodding toward the vehicles.

A firefighter sustained minor burns when part of a ceiling collapsed on him, Stark said. He was taken to a local medical facility, treated and released. The firefighter remained on duty, Stark said.

Eight apartments were damaged, including two with fire damage, two with water and smoke damage and two with smoke damage only. A utility room and hallway also were damaged by fire, Stark said.

Damage was estimated at $45,000.

A number of witnesses said roofing crew members working to repair the roof of the building were using blow torches on the asphalt, which apparently ignited the frame of the building. Several crew members ran toward the Park 25 management office, yelling that the building was on fire.

They used fire extinguishers and a garden hose but could not keep the fire from spreading into the walls of the B side of building No. 7, which contains eight apartments.

At the scene, Fire and Medical Director Jim McSwain said the fire was contained but had gone into the walls, making the effort more difficult.

"They're just like arteries," McSwain said.

Firefighters pulled sections of metal and wood from the outer walls as others kept a hose pointed toward the second floor. Apartment complex manager Linda Love stood nearby, consoling a female tenant of the hardest-hit upstairs apartment. A bird in her apartment was rescued, but her pet rabbit was not.

Fire damage was restricted to the walls and the building's crawl space, although the ceiling collapsed above the upstairs apartments. A damage estimate was not available.

An apartment maintenance man rescued Tauscher's cat, Willie the Wildcat, which panted and tried to squirm from her grasp in the parking lot.

"She's a little freaked out," Tauscher said.

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