Vacant central Topeka house destroyed after catching fire for fifth time in past nine months

Judith Zeng

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – For the fifth time in the past nine months, a vacant house in central Topeka caught fire on Monday morning.

It’s doubtful the house will catch fire again after it was reduced to rubble after Monday morning’s blaze.

Crews were called around 8:42 a.m. Monday to a two-story house at 1600 S.W. Clay.

Upon their arrival, crews found the structure was fully involved in flames, said Topeka Fire Department public information officer Alan Stahl.

Heavy smoke poured out of the house for more than an hour and could be seen drifting to the west from about three miles away.

Because of the nature of the fire, the extreme heat it produced and the condition of the structure, firefighters were prevented from entering the burning house and conducting an interior search.

“We know the structure is vacant,” Stahl said. “We know that it has structural problems.

“So it becomes very dangerous for our firefighters to fight these fires. So what we did was we immediately began to contain the fire. We protected the houses around it — the vehicles around it — and put water on it from the outside., which was the safest way for our fighters to fight this fire.”

Firefighters battled the blaze from the exterior, using hoses at ground level and later from high above when an aerial apparatus allowed crews to spray water directly into the house.

The Topeka Fire Department responded to a fire Monday morning at S.W. 16th and Clay.(Phil Anderson)

By the time the aerial apparatus was activated, the interior of the house already had collapsed, with only exterior walls still standing.

The force of the water being sprayed from above by the aerial unit helped bring down the north wall of the house, which crashed to the north — onto S.W. 16th Street — long after fire crews had gotten out of the way for what appeared to be the inevitable collapse.

Stahl said crews did well to keep the blaze contained to the house where it started and protect other nearby structures and property.

However, Stahl said, some damage was reported to vehicles parked near the residence — including to paneling on the side of a Topeka Fire Department engine that was stationed in front of the house facing north at S.W. 16th and Clay.

Before Monday morning’s blaze, four other fires had been reported at the same residence in the previous nine months. According to WIBW records, those fires occurred on June 3, 2021; Aug. 21, 2021; Sept. 2, 2021; and Dec. 13, 2021.

There were no reports of injuries in Monday’s fire.

Anyone with information on the fires may call Shawnee County Crime Stoppers at 785-234-0007.

For the latest news, follow Phil at www.facebook.com/wibwPhil and at www.twitter.com/wibwphil.

Fire crews were called to a vacant home in central Topeka Monday morning.

Copyright 2022 WIBW. All rights reserved.

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