Archive for Friday, July 6, 2007

Fireworks suspected in Eudora blaze

July 6, 2007

A day after her home was damaged by fire, Eudora resident Cheri Powell is counting her blessings.

It could have been much worse, she said.

She could have lost everything. Or worse, she or her neighbors could have been hurt.

The 51-year-old Powell was rescued from her home by Greydon Walker, a Eudora police officer, after a blaze started about 10 p.m. Wednesday, causing an entire city block to be evacuated and setting into motion a chain of events that included a downed power line and an underground natural gas leak.

Eight neighboring agencies responded to the fire that Eudora Fire Department officials suspect the fire was caused by a wayward firecracker.

Powell's home at 620 Locust St. fared much better than her neighbors' home at 618 Locust St., where the fire is thought to have started on the garage roof. Little remains of the residence, where the garage and the back of the home received the most damage.

"Tonight, I'm trying to find a place to stay," Powell said Thursday.

The fire also brought down a power line, and the heat from the blaze caused an underground natural gas leak at Powell's home.

It's totally livable, except there's no electricity or gas right now," said Belinda Rehmer, a friend of Powell's. "But the rest of the house is OK. The electric wires have melted and there's part of a tree that's been burned."

Eudora Fire Chief Randy Ates estimates the damage to both homes at $125,000, with 618 Locust St. deemed a total loss.

Powell, who has lived on Locust Street for three years, said this is the first year she has ever been concerned about fireworks going off too close to her home.

"She just noticed a lot more firework activity close to the house this year than she had noticed before," Rehmer said.

Ates said considering the time of night and the close proximity of many homes in the neighborhood, fireworks are a likely cause.

Powell's next-door neighbors at 618 Locust St., who declined to be interviewed, were already in bed when smoke alarms alerted them to the fire.

"They were already out when we arrived," Ates said. "It's a true case that smoke alarms save lives."

Eudora does not have a city ordinance against setting off fireworks within its city limits. Ates does not think an ordinance and its penalties could have prevented what happened.

"I don't think an ordinance would solve the problem," Ates said. "Better education of the public. I think that would be the best move.

---- Patrick Cady contributed to this article.

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