Accident led to quick response

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

A traffic accident on Madison Avenue in downtown Iola Friday night may have prevented a fire from causing substantially more damage than it did.
Brock Stotler, 45, came downstairs from his apartment, above Salon Nyne, 9 E. Madison, after fire erupted in the apartment and immediately saw police officers. They relayed information to Iola firefighters, who were on the scene in minutes.
“When we got there the apartment was filled with fire,” said IFD Lt. Ryan Sell.
The fortunate circumstance was that flames had not escaped the apartment.
“The heat was intense,” to the point that virtually everything combustible in the apartment had caught fire, Sell said.
Two firefighters, Kenneth Powell and Jacob French, were dispatched up the stairs with heavy fire hose in tow. In about 20 minutes they had the flames knocked down, although they and other firefighters, including Allen County volunteers and a crew from Chanute, continued to seek and extinguish hot spots for some time afterward.
Fire Chief Don Leapheart said Iola utility crews also assisted, with disconnects to prevent gas lines from erupting and by restricting and controlling traffic flow through town. Madison Avenue is U.S. 54.
Firefighters remained on the scene until about 3:30 a.m. Saturday.
“The fire had a good start, lots of oxygen from an open door and lots of fuel,” Sell said.
He declined to guess how long it would have been before the fire would have expanded into adjoining parts of the immediate structure and elsewhere in the block, which contains seven buildings. That would be speculation, Sell said, but he noted time always was of the essence in fighting a fire.
Firefighters said the fire was believed to be accidental with an unknown cause, Sell said, and though contained to the apartment, smoke and water damage occurred elsewhere.
Kim Rich, at Party Girls, 7 E. Madison, said her store sustained minimal water damage, but “we did have some soot and a lot of smoke.” She applauded firefighters for making concerted efforts to prevent water used in fighting the fire from being more pervasive than it was.

STOTLER, after telling officers about the fire, laid down on the sidewalk and it was evident, Leapheart said, that he was in distress.
“Everyone in our department was working to fight the fire and we called on Allen County EMS to transport him to the hospital,” Leapheart said.
After he was stabilized at the hospital, Stotler was transferred to a Wichita hospital for more specialized treatment for smoke inhalation, said Sharon Hoffmeier, his mother.
Stotler returned to Iola late Sunday afternoon and is doing well, she said.