Victim identified in space heater fire

Published On: Dec 24 2013 06:14:31 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 10 2013 11:18:44 AM CST

The Wichita Fire Department said the man who died in a house fire Sunday morning was Elijah Smith, 83.

A space heater plugged into an extension cord was to blame for the fire, the department said. Smith was overcome by smoke and died. The fire was on the 1500 block of N. Erie in north Wichita.

Fire officials say Smith and his son tried to put the fire out by themselves at first. There was a smoke alarm in the house, but it was not working.  Fire officials say that was not a factor in this case because both people in the house at the time knew about the fire.

This is the 11th fire death in Wichita in 2013.

"I just talked to the son and he told me that his dad was in the bedroom trying to warm something up on the space heater and it turned into a fire," said James Bonner, a neighbor who knows the family. "So he ran and got some water and tried to put the fire out."

He said the son in his 50s was physically fine, but overwhelmed by what happened.

"Very sad deal," said Bonner. "I hate this for him."

The son told fire authorities he tried to pull his dad out.

"There was indications that he tried to get him out, trying to fight the fire, but the smoke was getting to overwhelming and he had to get low and couldn't get his dad out," said Captain Bevis.

Fire crews fought flames trying to get to him.

"When the crews got here they had heavy fire showing on the front porch and through the front door," said Bevis. "But we have a lot of fire in a back room and it's kind of just the path of the fire. They had fire every step of the way getting into that house."

911 Dispatchers received the call just before 8:45 a.m. when roads were extremely slick.

"Even in a 48,000 pound fire truck, it stops even less accurately so that makes for some challenges," said Bevis. "When we clear off we're going to have sand trucks come through here because of all the water out here on the street is extremely hazardous."