The Liberal Fire Department arrived on the scene at 10:55 a.m. and quickly used ladders to aid the woman. Firefighter Tyson Rice climbed the second ladder to aid the woman safely to the ground. After Rice got the woman to safety, firefighters battle flames shooting out of the west side of the structure. The fire was not declared under control until 1:37 p.m. L&T photo/Jessica Crawford
By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Leader & Times
A structure fire at 802 N. Pennsylvania Ave. Thursday morning brought all of Seward County’s first responders to the scene, as well as the American Red Cross. A ladder rescue was made by the Liberal Fire Department, and at the end of the day, several families were rendered homeless.
Liberal Fire Chief Kelly Kirk said investigative efforts must be postponed until the stability of the structure is resolved.
“The entire structure suffered significant fire, heat, smoke and water damage,” Kirk said. “One adult female occupant was rescued from the third floor of the residence and was treated at the scene. The building had been divided into several apartments and multiple individuals and families have been displaced by the incident.
“The cause of the fire is still under investigation at this time,” he explained. “Investigation efforts have been made very difficult by the structural damage from the fire and will be difficult to complete until the structural integrity of the building can be confirmed.”
The fire, Kirk said, was called in by a passerby at 10:51 a.m. It would be well past noon before the fire would be pronounced “under control.”
“Fire units began arriving on the scene at 10:55 to find heavy smoke issuing from the top floor of the structure and fire venting from the eaves,” he said. “An adult female occupant was trapped in a third floor apartment and was rescued by ladder. Additional primary and secondary searches of the structure did not locate any additional occupants or victims. Due to the location and extent of the fire, it was not declared under control until 1:37 p.m. Mutual aid for firefighting efforts was provided by the Seward County Fire Department. The fire was officially declared to be out at 2:04 p.m. Fire units left the scene at 5:35 p.m.
“Also to be recognized for efforts above and beyond the call of duty at this incident are the Liberal Police Department and Seward County Sheriff’s Officers, Seward County EMS, Liberal Building Department and American Red Cross personnel,” he added.
Sherry Helmke of the American Red Cross said several families are receiving aid until it is clear where they will go from here.
“Already, what we have done, is put most of them up in motels for about three days,” Helmke said. “This will give them some time to figure out what they are going to do now – so they can find a place to live. Some of them needed food – we helped them with food. A few of them needed clothes – we helped them with that.”
Kirk would like to remind residents of how very important working smoke detectors are in a home.
“With this incident, we would like to issue a reminder to all citizens of the importance of working smoke detectors in the home,” he said. “We encourage everyone to have working smoke detectors on every floor of the home, preferably near sleeping areas. Change the batteries and test these detectors often to ensure proper operation. Smoke detectors are an easy and reliable way to provide early warning for fast escape in the event a fire should occur in your home.
“We would also like to remind everyone that a limited supply of free smoke detectors are still available at Fire Station No. 1 at 110 W. 15th St. or at City Hall 324 N. Kansas Ave. through the ‘Safe At Home’ program,” he continued. “As always, citizens with questions or concerns can call the fire department at 626-0128, we will be happy to provide whatever assistance or information that we can.”