The Welch Volunteer Fire Dept. responded within minutes. Bluejacket Fire Dept. automatically provides mutual aid. Due to the potential for property damage, Welch Fire Chief, Brandon Webster, solicited the help of Centralia, Chetopa (Kan.), Labette County (Kan.), and Oswego (Kan.) fire departments. All attended.
Firefighters were able to contain the fire before it burned out of control and were responsible for limiting the damage. Attic firewalls were also to thank for restraining fire damage.
No one was injured in the fire, though one family lost a beloved cat.
Personnel from the combined fire departments fought the fire until nearly midnight, when firefighters were confident all parts of the fire were extinguished. Welch Fire Dept. personnel remained on the scene throughout the night as a precaution against subsequent flame ups.
Preliminary examination shows extensive damage and likely total loss to two-three apartments, with varying degrees of smoke and water damage to many others. The connected church facilities had mainly smoke damage.
All apartment tenants are currently displaced, as water and power has been cut off due to fire damage to plumbing and wiring. The Red Cross has been on the scene today offering assistance to affected families.
Church insurance agents were on the scene during the fire. The insurance company’s adjuster should be on the scene within a day.
Formerly the Welch VFW apartments, the Living Hope apartments housed 18 persons in 10 of its 12 rental units. The remaining two units were rented to a salon.
According to preliminary conversations with David VanBuskirk, an agent with the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal’s office, the blaze originated in the kitchen of apartment unit 9. A full report is expected later today.
Craig Country Sheriff’s Office and local EMS personnel were also on the scene.
Church pastor, and your KVWO general manager, Tyson Wynn posted on the church’s Facebook page last night, “Let us thank you for your prayers. As you may know, our apartments caught fire tonight. Thanks to your prayers and the dedicated firefighters from Welch, Bluejacket, Centralia, Chetopa, Labette County, and Oswego, the fire was contained. We have some apartments that were lost, but it could have been much worse, though it is devastating to the tenants whose apartments were lost. Thankfully, no humans were hurt, though one family lost a dear pet. We’re working to make sure everyone has a place to stay. We’ll evaluate things in the morning and get with the insurance company. Our insurance won’t cover the tenants’ personal losses, so we’ll share needs tomorrow as we discover them, as many of you have been asking how you can help. Our thanks also to the Craig County Sheriff’s Dept. and the EMS who were on the scene. And, our church space appears to have minimal damage, mainly smoke. We thank God for all those who helped and prayed tonight.”
Wynn adds, “We lost some stuff. Stuff is replaceable. That’s why have insurance. We’re thankful no one was injured or worse, though we do mourn that a family lost their pet and that our tenants lost property and were both inconvenienced and displaced. We’re working with our insurance company to get things resolved as quickly as possible. We have a great team at Living Hope, and we’ll be meeting tonight to determine our next steps. As for Sunday, we will worship together as usual. As to where that is, we’ll announce a decision when we make one. As of now, we believe there’s too much smoke damage to meet in our building. Sunday is supposed to be beautiful, so we may bring lawn chairs and meet in the parking lot.” When Living Hope first began meeting at the former VFW building, attendees brought their own lawn chairs each week.
Editor’s Note: As I’m also the pastor of Living Hope, let me express that we’re indebted to all who prayed when we asked for it last night, as well as the many firefighters who worked so hard to save our building. We appreciate you all. Nothing truly valuable was lost, and we’re thankful for that.