Investigators: Electrical fire started in attic, destroyed house on New Jersey Street

photo by: Elvyn Jones

A Lawrence firefighter pumps water into the attic of a home at 1116 New Jersey St. shortly after noon Sunday, June 3, 2018.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with additional information at 4:03 p.m. June 4, 2018.

An electrical fire started in an unfinished portion of the attic of an East Lawrence house on Sunday and eventually destroyed the residence, investigators said Monday.

The department was still completing its report on the incident Monday afternoon, including pinning down what type of electrical problem was the culprit, said Division Chief and Fire Marshal James King of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.

King said investigators have deemed the fire accidental. He said that while the fire started in an unfinished portion of the house’s attic, part of the attic was finished and used for living quarters.

He said the house was a total loss, though investigators haven’t yet assigned a dollar estimate to the damages.

Lawrence police officers called in the fire at 1116 New Jersey St. about 11:35 a.m. Sunday. When firefighters arrived, the house’s two residents were safely outside and heavy smoke was coming from the attic.

Officials said Sunday that walls in the attic hampered firefighters’ ability to access the fire and fight it from the inside, so they attacked it defensively by pouring on water from outside the house.

The fire was deemed under control about an hour later, at 12:30 p.m.

There were smoke alarms in the house, and they did activate, King said.

The house’s owner told the Journal-World Sunday that he normally slept upstairs but was asleep on a couch downstairs when his roommate woke him and told him there was smoke coming from the attic. Donald Mellenbruch, who has owned the house more than 30 years, told the newspaper Sunday that he guessed an electrical problem sparked the fire.

Have a tip or story idea?

  • 785-832-7187
  • @saramarieshep

    Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.