House fire that injured two caused by careless smoking, officials say

WICHITA — A 55-year-old woman who nearly died in a south Wichita house fire Wednesday remains in critical condition at a local hospital today, officials said.

The fire was reported just after 4 p.m. in the 4500 block of South Oak, near Seneca and 43rd Street South.

"It appears the victim may have fallen asleep in a chair while smoking, and caught the chair on fire," Wichita Fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said.

Two passers-by spotted the fire and intervened, Bevis said. One tried to put the fire out with a garden hose from the front of the house, he said, while the second entered the house through a back door and attempted to rescue the woman.

He was taken to Via Christi Regional Medical Center on St. Francis, where he was treated for smoke inhalation and released.

The woman who lived at the house was not breathing when firefighters arrived, Bevis said, but she was revived while en route to the hospital and is in critical condition at St. Francis today.

The fire caused an estimated $30,000 in damage to the house and its contents, Bevis said.