Video: Kan. firefighter remains hospitalized after fire destroys apartment complex

The Wichita Fire Department called in extra crews to keep firefighters from succumbing to heat exhaustion


Michael Stavola
The Wichita Eagle

WICHITA, Kan. — A firefighter remained hospitalized Wednesday morning after Tuesday's massive west Wichita apartment fire caused an estimated $2 million in damages, according to Battalion Chief Jose Ocadiz.

The 16-unit apartment is unlivable. Drone footage shows the roof was burned off of the apartments on the second floor.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Ocadiz didn't know how the firefighter was injured but said they called in extra crews to keep firefighters from succumbing to heat exhaustion.

Firefighters were called around 6:20 p.m. to the fire at the Aspen Park Apartments, 8405 W. Central. The temperature was over 100 degrees at that time. Firefighters en route noticed a big plume of smoke coming from the two-story apartment, he said.

Video taken by the fire department shows the roof burning on multiple second-story apartments.

Ocadiz said firefighters did an initial search for people before having to switch to fighting the fire from outside after firefighters noticed the roof was becoming soft and starting to sag.

Residents, including 19-year-old Aubrey Schnieders, were able to evacuate before the fire department arrived. Schnieders was sleeping before being woken by abrupt knocking. She thought it was someone at the wrong address. She went to the bathroom, heard more knocking, and then saw smoke coming through the vent. The living room was full of smoke when she ran back out of the bathroom. The fire alarms started to go off.

She left but ran back inside twice for her wallet, keys and shoes — the second time she now thinks was risky but everything she needed was just feet from the stairs. Schnieders said a couple of people kicked in the door and rescued a dog from her neighbor's apartment.

Ocadiz said 17 residents were getting assistance from American Red Cross. The top floor has heavy fire and water damage, he said, and the bottom floor has heavy water damage. Fire damage is estimated at $1.5 million to the building and $500,000 to the contents, he said.

The firefighter injured was first treated on-scene in the department's rehab center. After his vitals were taken, the firefighter was taken by EMS to Wesley Medical Center. He is expected to recover, Ocadiz said.

Schnieders and her boyfriend had been living in their apartment two months and purchased a couch two weeks ago. She said she and other residents watched as the fire seemed to die out and surge again. She is unsure where they will live next.

"We just lost everything," she said. "It was crazy."

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the couple recover what was lost. The fundraiser can be found at tinyurl.com/32uc9b95. A fundraiser for another person affected by the fire can be found at tinyurl.com/ywnrv7rd.

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(c)2022 The Wichita Eagle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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