Local, State & Federal Agencies Probing Manhattan Blaze

By: Lindsey Rogers Email
By: Lindsey Rogers Email

MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- Manhattan fire officials say it could take weeks, even months to determine what sparked a massive weekend fire that tore through a construction site.

Amazing videos and pictures sent in by WIBW viewers show the wrath of the blaze that destroyed nearly 100 luxury apartments in the making on 4th Street. .

"This will probably be the largest dollar loss in the history of the city of Manhattan," Manhattan Fire Chief Jerry Snyder told 13 News Monday.

"Our first crews arriving on scene found the upper floors on the north end totally involved in fire, fire coming out the windows and out of the doors and up over the roof. So we immediately went to a second alarm and we ended up with six apparatus on scene and we had 35 personnel on scene and we also called back extra personnel to staff our reserve engines to cover the rest of the city. It was under construction. The first floor had sheet rock. The rest of the floors were still open so a lot of lumber that was exposed and so the fire traveled very fast throughout the whole structure," he added.

The Strasser Village Apartments, a north end redevelopment project, were expected to be finished next fall. Bricklayers were supposed to start work Monday but that all changed when the top floor ignited early Sunday morning around 2:30. In no time, flames spread to the rest of the four story building.


"It’s sad on so many levels and that was one of our first thoughts- how many lives this was affected. There were a lot of people involved. This was a large project that is a year and a half process and people made plans around that and it affects a lot of lives and it's a tragedy," said Janelle Weichert, Chief Operating Officer for McCullough Development, the developers for the project.

As for the question everyone is asking- what sparked this massive blaze- Manhattan fire investigators are working to find that out. Members of the Riley County Police Department, State Fire Marshal's Office and ATF are helping with the investigation.

"That is due to the large dollar loss that we’re expecting and the complexity of this incident. As you can see behind me, there’s a lot for our guys to have to look through so they’re assisting our fire investigators," Chief Snyder said.

He says the cause and origin of the fire is undetermined.

"Due to the complexity of the fire and how much damage there is, to actually get in and dig through this, it’s a very unstable structure so we may have to get equipment in here and pull piece by piece out and look at it as we go. It could take days, it could take weeks, it could take months before we have an official determination on cause," he added.

Tear down and clean up at the site will not start until the investigation into the fire is complete.

The Strasser Village Apartments structure is a total loss. Damage estimates are undetermined at this time. As a result of embers traveling from the Strasser Village Apartments, the adjacent Dick’s Sporting Goods building sustained fire, smoke and water damage. The loss for the Dick’s Sporting Goods building and contents is undetermined at this time. Dick’s Sporting Goods expected to re-open soon.

631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email: feedback@wibw.com
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