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New Year's Day Fire destroys trailer
Unrelated garage fire considered suspicious
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Johnny Espinosa is shown outside his home at 701 Odell Street, which was destroyed by a fire Tuesday morning. All three adult occupants got out safely, but two pets died in the blaze. - photo by Susan Thacker

Johnny Espinosa and his wife were enjoying a quiet New Year’s Day when she stepped into the kitchen and smelled burning rubber. Right after that the man who lives with them hollered “fire!”

Espinosa, his wife Juanita Valdez and their friend John Glenn III all got out of the burning trailer house at 701 Odell Street safely, but without their shoes, cell phones or keys. Someone called the Great Bend Fire Department at 10:12 a.m. Tuesday.

The front door was blocked as the living room was already in flames, Espinosa recalled Wednesday afternoon, as friends and family members surveyed the charred remains of the trailer.

“Nothing in there is salvageable,” he said.

When they opened the back door to escape on Tuesday, it fanned the flames. 

Two female dogs, “a wiener dog and a chihuahua,” died but they were able to get three dogs out — “our boys got out,” he said.

The cause of the fire is believed to be electrical, possibly connected to a heater in the house, according to preliminary reports. Espinosa suspects the electrical outlet on the south wall — near the front door that they were unable to use — was the culprit.

Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke coming from the house.

Espinosa is a retired oilfield worker and his wife is on disability. Glenn drives her to doctor’s appointments. They had lived in the trailer for four years and had about a year left on their rent-to-own agreement, he said. The home was insured.

“We want to thank the Red Cross for their help,” he said. Family members are staying at a local hotel for now.

Suspicious fire Monday

The Great Bend Fire Department was also called to a fire in a garage behind a residence at 1210 Ninth Street at 7:41 p.m. Monday. A car inside the garage was damaged but another vehicle under an outdoor awning was not damaged.

The Great Bend Police Department took a miscellaneous case because the fire was suspicious. Loss was $1,500.

According to early reports, Investigator Jason Reece with the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office inspected the property on Wednesday and said the heat source and cause of ignition could not be determined.

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Friends and family sort through the remains of the fire. - photo by Susan Thacker