Blaze destroys house
A rural Tonganoxie home was destroyed by fire last Wednesday morning.
"We will probably never know the exact cause, but our assumption at this point is lightning from the storms the previous two nights," said Tom Pulkrabek, chief of the Tonganoxie Township Fire Department.
The home, owned by Mark and Lori Elston, was at 21589 Kansas Avenue, south of Tonganoxie. No one was at home when the fire broke out.
Pulkrabek said the two-car garage was ablaze when firefighters arrived. In addition to the fire, firefighters battled against high humidity and high temperatures.
"At the onset, we had quite a few of the firefighters who were on the scene initially getting very exhausted real quick," Pulkrabek said. "So we had Leavenworth County EMS on the fire scene on standby. ... They just needed to sit down and take off their bunker gear and rest for awhile."
Tonganoxie firefighter John Callaghan said he and three or four other firefighters were first on the scene, and they worked for about 20 minutes, hoping to gain an upper hand on the fire. But the fire never was under control.
"It was pretty tough, the first part of it," Callaghan said.
Because the house was about 75 feet above the level of the road, firefighters had difficulty establishing a strong water flow.
"We set up portable tanks on the road," Pulkrabek said. "We pumped from Kansas Avenue up the hill."
Initially, firefighters from Tonganoxie city, along with Tonganoxie, Reno and Stranger townships responded to the fire. Then McLouth, Fairmount Township and Sherman Township were brought in. And Delaware Township covered the Fairmount station, while Eudora city covered Tonganoxie city, and McLouth also covered Tonganoxie Township.
The Tonganoxie city auxiliary provided water and Gatorade to firefighters, Pulkrabek said.