The cause of the Thursday afternoon fire that charred a home at 2222 Monroe remains undetermined, said Luke McCormick, investigator for the Great Bend Fire Department. He spent most of the day Friday at the scene with representative from the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The blaze, which erupted mid afternoon, started on the deck at the back of the house. McCormick said there were a couple possibilities for the cause but they couldn’t rule out either.
“It is still under investigation,” he said. Damage estimates were unavailable.
The call came in at about 3:30 and firefighters were at the residence for several hours. The blaze blackened the garage and the back side of the home, including a fence, and destroyed a car on the property. There was also extensive damage elsewhere.
Neighborhood residents sat on their porches and stood in their yards to watch the activity.
Everyone inside the house made it out safely, due in part to the efforts of Chet Whetham, the Great Bend resident who was the first one to notice the fire. “I saw it and realized it was going to get bad,” he said.
Whetham and his girlfriend were at his buddy Dave Cannon’s house nearby when he spotted the smoke. Cannon called 911 while Whetham went to the burning house.
“I knocked on the door and there was nothing,” he said. He ran around the house, banging on the walls as he went.
He made numerous trips into the home, finding no one. If anyone was home, he was unable to rouse them.
Someone on the scene told him there were people inside, so he made one more foray inside. He went to the back of the house and saw the door to the basement, and met the occupants at the landing.
“They thought someone was at the door,” Whetham said. “They had no idea the house was on fire.”
The two and two young children had been sleeping downstairs. They handed one of the children to Whetham just in time.
“The windows broke and we were engulfed in smoke,” he said. They made a mad dash out the front door.
“We were just in time,” he said. “Just seconds after we were out, that whole area was on fire.”
The house is owned by Steve Linenberger. Others live there, but no one else was home.
“I woke them up,” Whetham said. “I’m glad I did what I did. I’m glad I went with my gut.”
Great Bend Fire Department officials confirmed what Whetham said.