Twenty-five years after tragedy struck the same family in the same house, a fire killed a 63-year-old man and a young boy Thursday in northeastern Shawnee.
Three other people, all adults, were taken to the University of Kansas Hospital to be treated for injuries sustained in the fire, which was reported about 7 a.m. in the 4800 block of Lucille Lane.
Authorities identified the victims as Ronnie L. Walkup and 3-year-old Christian N. Young.
“It’s a terrible thing,” Steve Day, a neighborhood resident for about 40 years, said after ambulances left carrying two elderly women and a man believed to be in his 30s.
In 1989, another fire at the home killed 4-year-old Cody Young, who was overcome by smoke in a basement bedroom, and seriously injured his grandfather, according to a story from The Star’s archives.
Shortly before 7 a.m. Thursday, a driver stopped on the block after noticing something wafting up from the ranch-style home.
“Do you think that is steam or smoke?” the driver asked Day, who lives on the other side of the street.
Day sniffed the air.
It smelled like smoke. He called 911.
The woman got out of her car, went to the house and pounded on the door and windows to alert those inside to the fire.
Other neighbors heard strange popping sounds and looked out their window to find the cause.
“That’s when I saw flames coming out hard out of the back of the house,” said Gary Hansen, who lives southeast of the burned home. “So maybe it was a window we heard popping.”
Dispatchers alerted fire crews that people were believed to be trapped inside the burning home.
Firefighters helped the three survivors and entered the home to look for the missing man and boy, said Shawnee Fire Marshal Corey Sands.
They broke a window to get inside but then had to break up a headboard blocking their route. They found Walkup in the hallway, carried him outside and tried unsuccessfully to revive him.
They soon found Christian in the hallway as well. The two may have been a grandfather and his grandson, Sands said. Firefighters think they were trying to escape when they were overcome in the hallway.
Clutter in the house made rescue efforts difficult, Sands said.
Survivors reported hearing smoke alarms sounding, he said.
Authorities called in the Kansas fire marshal and also brought in an Olathe Fire Department dog to check for possible fire accelerants.
Ben Nicks, whose family in 1989 lived in a home just south of the Walkup house, still remembers the fire that claimed Cody Young that September.
“The fire had started in the basement, where Cody slept, and another one of the Walkup kids had run over to our back door for help,” Nicks said.
“They had tried to use a garden hose on it, but it hadn’t helped. My wife called the Fire Department and I tried to get into the basement, but they had put a washing machine in front of the downstairs door and I couldn’t get in.
“The Fire Department got there in a hurry and they had to physically shove themselves in through that door, but it was too late.”
The fire also injured Walter Walkup, Cody’s grandfather. Cody was among several of Walkup’s grandchildren then living at the home. Although the firefighters who carried Cody from the home reported that he still was breathing when they found him, he died about two hours later at Shawnee Mission Medical Center.
“Cody had been the youngest one,” Nicks said. “That year, he had helped my wife with her crocus plants. That’s why we were especially friendly with him.”
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