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Great Bend Fire Department responds to Monday morning house fire
Flames reached attic; neighbors evacuated; pet dies
Schmeidler dragging hose.jpg
Capt. Jim Schmeidler with the Great Bend Fire Department prepares to douse flames coming from the attic of a residence at 1106 Baker Street Monday morning.

The Great Bend Fire Department responded to reports of a house fire at 1106 Baker Ave. in Great Bend at 11:45 a.m. Monday. Neighbors to the north and south of the property were ordered to evacuate in case the fire spread. Wind speed at the time of the event was stated by dispatch to be 18 miles per hour from the south. 

Morris Cruz, 1108 Baker Ave., and another occupant watched as firefighters repeatedly circled the house with hoses chasing a fire that had reached the attic of the house. It was knocked down in different sections, only to spring back to life as attention was diverted elsewhere. 

At one point, flames penetrated a vent on the north gable of the attic, just feet from the property line. 

Cruz was alerted to the blaze when his family member smelled smoke and looked out her window to see the neighbor’s house on fire. She heard sirens in the vicinity at that time and alerted Cruz. 

“I was watering my tomatoes so they wouldn’t catch fire and spread to my house,” Cruz said. He and the other family member were asked to move to a safer part of the yard when firefighters arrived.

Jackie Fletcher, 1100 Baker, was not home when the fire started. She said friends who live nearby called her to tell her the neighbor’s house was on fire, and she returned home.

She was asked to remain outside the house while firefighters were working. Both she and Cruz noted the neighbor’s vehicle was not in the vicinity. 

However, the child of the burning home’s occupant and a teenage baby-sitter were in the house when the fire started. The baby-sitter and child made it out of the house unhurt, but a puppy that appeared to be crated in the house perished. 

The occupants of the house, Ashley Hardcastle, and David Jeppesen, spoke to the Great Bend Tribune on Tuesday. They learned of the fire from the babysitter and from friends. Hardcastle, who was at work in Hoisington, arrived at the scene as firefighters were engaged in fighting the blaze. Jeppesen learned of the fire while at work in Bushton. 

The baby-sitter spoke briefly to the Tribune at the scene, and stated that she was unaware how the fire had started. She stated this was her first time baby-sitting for her friend. 

Several times throughout the call, firefighters exited the flaming structure, their oxygen tank alarms sounding. Their tanks were switched out and they would re-enter to continue the fight. At one point, a truck-mounted water cannon was employed to assist firefighters with hoses as they doused the attic during one of their attempts to stop the fire. 

Ellinwood Fire Department responded partway through the call as relief. In addition to the structure, a dead tree in the backyard of the property caught fire, and also had to be doused repeatedly. 

After more than an hour of working the call, another call came in concerning a truck hauling hay bales possibly on fire. One of the Great Bend trucks deployed to that fire straight from the Baker Avenue scene. After nearly two hours, the Baker Avenue fire appeared to be under control. 

Hardcastle and Jeppesen met with the Great Bend Tribune on Tuesday. The Red Cross and the Knights of Columbus have reached out to them with emergency assistance, and friends and family are raising funds and helping them to find a new residence.  

The Great Bend Tribune contacted Deputy Chief Brent Smith who said the call came in at 11:45 a.m. on Monday morning.  It appears the fire started at the outside rear of the house and spread to the inside. It was aided by the wind, and the heat and humidity took a toll on his men.  Mutual aid was requested from Ellinwood Fire Department.  They responded with four firefighters and an engine. 

“In a house that age that has been added onto a few times, there area multiple void spaces,” he said. “It took a while to open up those spaces and put out the fire.”

The Fletcher house to the south suffered some damage to the exterior paint and window coverings, Smith said.  

The State Fire Marshall was contacted and investigated the fire.  It’s cause is still listed as undetermined.  Typically, a determination is made within a week, Smith said. 

 This story has been updated as of Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 25.  The names of the occupants of 1106 Baker Street and a description of how the community has responded, as well as information from the Great Bend Fire Department’s Deputy Chief Brent Smith were added.