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Witness, Wichita Fire Dept. revisit apartment fire, lifesaving response

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 4:25 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Late last week, the Wichita Fire Department provided a firsthand look at a life-threatening situation firefighters walked into on the morning of Sept. 6. Body cam footage showed crews carrying a child to safety as the flames built up at the Shores apartment complex in the 2800 block of South Emporia, in southwest Wichita.

On Tuesday, Sept. 14, Eyewitness News saw the damage the fire left behind and spoke with the fire department about the life-threatening situation, as well as someone who was there when the emergency level escalated. On its Facebook page, the WFD shared bodycam footage from the call.

You can still see the burnt and scarred damage to the apartment complex that is now boarded up. The Sept. 6 (Labor Day) fire injured four residents and two firefighters.

Tonya Winton and her son live in one of the apartments at the edge of the building where the fire happened. They got out as fire ripped through the center of their building. On the morning of Sept. 6, Winton said she was alerted by a man pounding on her door.

“When I got to the door, he said, we needed to get out, there was an emergency,” Winton said. “At that moment, I heard sirens and several people screaming, like screaming bloody murder.”

Winton said they watched on for what felt like an eternity as the Wichita Fire Department worked to put out the blaze, stopping it before it reached her apartment.

“They saved so many people and so many belongings and animals,” she said.

The Wichita Fire Department said the video provides a view of what they face. The Labor Day fire involved saving several people trapped, including children.

In sharing the video of heavy smoke and flames overtaking part of the structure and the fight to contain the powerful blaze, the Wichita Fire Department is hopeful that people will watch to see what firefighters face and see the importance of having a plan in case of emergency.

“Fire was on the second and third floor, extended up to the third floor and into the attic,” Wichita Fire Battalion Chief Jose Ocadiz said. “Honestly, the first-floor occupants weren’t aware there was really a fire.”

Battalion Chief Ocadiz said firefighters previously trained at the Shores apartment complex. This provided a benefit for them in response to a real call there.

“Be able to stretch lines and be able to know exactly how much we’re going to need to get to the second and the third floor,” he said. “We’re always training, we’re always going out into our neighborhood.”

While the fire upended the lives of several families living at the Shores apartment complex, Winton said she is tankful fo the fire department’s response. That response is credited or saving lives.

“It could have been so much worse, and it wasn’t, and I am so grateful,” she said.

The fire left 10 units uninhabitable and destroyed six. The WFD reported an estimated loss of $200,000 to the apartment building and $50,000 to contents.

“But no lives were lost,” the fire department said in a post on its Facebook page. “Those families have a lot to rebuild, but they still have each other.”

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