Displaced Residents React to Wichita (KS) Apartment Fire That Led to One Death

Michael Stavola

The Wichita Eagle


Nov. 27—Sandra Grayson is thankful she took her dog with her when she went to visit a sick friend on Friday evening.

She wasn’t gone long before her sister called, notifying her the north Wichita apartment building she lived in was on fire.

Grayson rushed home to find her apartment in flames.

One resident died and everyone else in the 12-unit building was displaced by the fire, according to Wichita Fire Department Battalion Chief Jose Ocadiz.

The fire was reported at 5:57 p.m. Friday at the Broadmoor at Chelsea apartments, near 21st and Rock.

The flames were intense enough that arriving firefighters called for additional support.

Despite the flames, Grayson, who is 62 and on a fixed income, rushed toward her apartment to save some of her belongings, but was stopped.

“It just was crazy,” she said. “I can’t understand why I wanted to go in there.”

She saw her neighbor on the ground with first responders providing aid.

Firefighters gave CPR to her neighbor after they had located her unresponsive and pulled her from her upstairs apartment. The 59-year-old woman was pronounced dead at an area hospital.

“She was always quiet and laid back.” Grayson said about her neighbor. “Real sweet kind of person.”

Saturday was met with heartache as Grayson and another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, looked on their charred apartments.

Grayson called the woman who asked not to be named and let her know her apartment was also on fire. She also wasn’t home when the fire started.

On Saturday, the women broke into tears while looking up at her apartment, which is next door to the apartment where the woman died.

“I have nothing,” she said as tears poured out.

Grayson and the woman plan to stay with family.

They lived in two of the four apartments where the fire department believes the blaze started. The cause is under investigation, but it’s believed to be accidental, Ocadiz said.

Four apartments have noticeable fire damage, but all others had to be vacated since the utilities were turned off, he said. Some of those apartments also have damage.

The building damage is estimated at $250,000 and contents destroyed are valued at $100,000, Ocadiz said.

Marlin Martin, who lived in the apartment right next door to one of the four damaged by flames, said his apartment had smoke and water damage. Martin and his family were using a U-Haul on Saturday to move his belongings to a new place.

Martin’s two children and his Boston Terrier, Davina, lived in the apartment. The humans were gone, but Davina wasn’t injured in the fire. She was chained up and excitedly whining as the family loaded the U-Haul.

Martin said the vents were dripping water and most of the items he had damaged were electronics. He has insurance, but doesn’t know if he will submit a claim.

Submitting a claim isn’t an option for Grayson or the woman who asked not to be named. Grayson and the woman both mentioned being thankful their dogs were with them when they left home.

“I don’t think I could have lived if my dog had died,” Grayson said about her Cocker Spaniel, Lady. “I wouldn’t have wanted to.”

Grayson said she’s shaken by the experience, but lucky to be alive.

“Just take it one day at a time and ask God to direct me,” she said. “What can I do? I know He had a plan. We ain’t dead. He wasn’t ready for us.”

This story was originally published November 27, 2021 2:15 PM.


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