Friday night saw the ecstasy and the agony of fireworks in Emporia.
As dusk settled in, thousands of people enjoyed a better than 30-minute fireworks display at Emporia State University, courtesy of the Flint Hills Optimists, the city of Emporia, ESU, Lyon County and Lyon County Attorney's Office. Almost exactly two hours later, a fireworks-related blaze began destroying Sterling House at 1200 West 12th. Fire Chief Jack Taylor with the initial investigation results:
Taylor says a review of the city's fireworks policy may be needed, although it's unclear who was shooting off the fireworks and it's not known whether there was any violation of the current city ordinance. Two years ago, fires destroyed a home and nearby property just east of Emporia on July 4 and a fireworks-related blaze destroyed a house in the 700 block of Exchange on July 5.
Taylor says it is far too soon to speculate on possible changes.
Fire gutted the middle third of Sterling House late Friday night, but all 21 residents inside got out safely. Residents of the assisted living facility were taken to Newman Regional Health to spend the night. Sterling House spokesperson Kristin Puckett says arrangements have been made for "alternative living" options and the company appreciates the work of all involved to put out the fire and investigate the cause, as well as Newman Regional Health for the Saturday morning housing.
Puckett says Sterling House is now evaluating its long-term plans for a local presence. The facility was built in the mid-1990s.
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3:10 pm: Fire's cause released
Fire gutted the middle third of Sterling House late Friday night, but all 21 residents inside got out safely.
Fire Chief Jack Taylor says the work of firefighters, law enforcement and passersby was remarkable to make sure everybody was safe.
Firefighters were called to 1200 West 12th shortly before midnight, discovering flames already coming from the roof. Crews from Emporia, Americus and Olpe worked nearly six hours during the initial firefight, including two-plus hours to control the main blaze.
The cause of the fire, according to Emporia Fire Marshal Reason Bradford, is accidental: "improper disposal of discharged firework material." EFD has not specified exactly what happened Friday to lead to the fire.
The Kansas Fire Marshal's Office assisted with the investigation.
Sterling House provides assisted living for seniors. Residents were taken to Newman Regional Health to spend the night and are now with family, according to local management. An corporate operations team will build a long-term plan for the facility, but the initial goal is to rebuild. The facility was built in the mid-1990s.
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