Archive for Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Fire claims rural Linwood home

March 27, 2002

Wind gusts Thursday morning kindled a grass fire into a raging inferno that left ashes of a garage and a burned shell of a house in its wake.

The home, owned by Calvin Dickhaut, is at 13308 184th Street, east of Linwood.

Dale Box, assistant fire chief for Sherman Township and a Kansas certified fire investigator level 1, said that at about 9:15 a.m. a neighbor reported seeing smoke coming from a garage.

Sherman Township fire chief Dan Tallman said when firefighters arrived at the Sarcoxie Lake residence, the house had just caught on fire and the blaze was spreading rapidly.

"A fire doubles in size every four minutes in a natural state," Tallman said. "But with 25 mile-per-hour winds feeding it, it probably went a lot faster than that."

Box said a preliminary investigation showed the fire started when arcing power lines ignited a grass fire that spread to the garage. Wind gusts of between 15 and 25 mph spread the fire to the house, which was about 10 feet away.

The home's residents, who had been out of state for several days, were unaware of the fire until mid-afternoon when they drove into their driveway, Tallman said. By that time, the fire had been put out, and Box and Mike Gast, also a Sherman Township firefighter, were working on their investigation.

Neighbors who watched the blaze said it hadn't taken long for the fire to destroy the garage.

"It went quick, it really did," said Tonya Barnes. "Then things in the garage started exploding, too."

Three vehicles in the garage and a recreational vehicle parked outside also were destroyed.

Because there are no fire hydrants in the housing development, firefighters hauled water two miles and set up a portable reservoir at the site. Firefighting units from Reno, Stranger and Fairmount townships assisted Sherman Township in putting out the fire and hauling water. Tallman said that by 2 p.m. the 27 volunteer firefighters had completed their work.

Neighbors watching the firefighters expressed concern about the lack of nearby hydrants.

Barnes, who is secretary of the Sarcoxie Lake Homeowners Association, said in 1998 the association checked into putting in hydrants.

"The cost was so great to us at that time that it wasn't approved by our home association," she said. "But we are going to bring it up again at our next meeting."

Don Brock, operator manager of Leavenworth County Rural Water District No. 7, said it would be costly to install fire hydrants at Sarcoxie Lake.

"The trouble is we have no water lines large enough to support a fire hydrant," Brock said. "You're talking about probably a minimum of a couple of miles of pipeline."

Cost of installing a larger pipeline could run about 11 cents a foot, Brock said. And fire hydrants could cost from $1,500 to about $3,500.

Brock said, since the residential district has a lake, a less expensive solution would be to install dry fire hydrants.

"If I was a homeowner out there, that's exactly what I'd do," Brock said.

A dry fire hydrant would be hooked to a pump that could take water from the lake when needed.

"I'm guessing it would cost about $4,000 if they didn't have to run the line very far," Brock said.

Meanwhile, he said the water district is trying to upgrade the water system.

"Our board has really come a long way," Brock said. "We're installing new lines and as we do they're installing new fire hydrants."

Fire hydrants are painted different colors for a reason, Brock said.

The colors represent how many gallons per minute could be pumped from the water line. Sometimes, he said, fire hydrants are installed for future use, and aren't currently used for firefighting fires. These hydrants are painted black, he said.

"When you see a black fire hydrant, it means that that fire hydrant is absolutely worthless," Brock said. "It may have a little water in it, but not enough for a fire department to use."

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