Woman dies in house fire

The Kansas State Fire Marshal's office is working with Iola Fire Department and other agencies to determine what led to the death of an Iola woman at a house fire Thursday.

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August 6, 2021 - 1:54 PM

Firefighters, police and the state fire marshal's office investigate a house fire at Sycamore and Breckenridge Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Local and state authorities are investigating a woman’s death, discovered during a fire at her home Thursday afternoon.

The body of Nancy “Kate” Newkirk, age 64, was found as Iola firefighters battled a blaze at her home at 621 N. Sycamore St. The house was destroyed. No one else lived at the home.

The fire was reported a little after noon, and the person who reported the fire said someone was still inside the structure.

Firefighters arrived within minutes, IFD Chief Chase Waggoner said.

Three search-and-rescue teams were sent inside the house while other firefighters battled the blaze through an open window. 

The fire appears to have started in a bedroom but the cause is undetermined at this time, Waggoner said. Results from lab tests and an autopsy should provide more details. 

THe Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office is assisting with the investigation, which is typical for a fatal incident.

A firefighter surveys the scene of a house fire at Sycamore and Breckinridge.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

A FATALITY fire is difficult on everyone involved, Waggoner said. 

It’s even more difficult in a small town, he added. Many of the firefighters, including Waggoner, knew or had met the victim.

“When you hear someone might be trapped inside, everything changes,” he said. “In the fire service, we have a saying: Risk a little to save a little, risk a lot to save a lot. If there is a person trapped, we will put our firefighters at some risk to try to save them.”

The fire department offers resources to help firefighters process any possible trauma from the incident. Waggoner said he notified firefighters soon after the fire, reminding them of counselors and other mental health services that are available. 

“Mental health is something we want to address early. It’s not something we take trivially,” Waggoner said.

INVESTIGATORS from Iola Fire Department, the Olathe Fire Department, the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms were on scene investigating the incident. 

Neosho County Emergency Medical Services provided medical standby during the incident.

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