Wichita, KS – Fire official blames septic system for blast

BY ADAM SMELTZ

The Wichita Eagle

Methane gas leaking from a dirty septic system is probably to blame for a house explosion last week, a fire investigator said Friday.

The 5 a.m. blast sparked a fierce fire that destroyed the home at 747 N. Sheridan, a rented house near Central and Zoo Boulevard where a pregnant woman had lived with her boyfriend. Neither was hurt.

A septic system at the residence apparently had not been cleaned in 23 years, said Lt. Stuart Bevis of the Wichita Fire Department.

His investigation suggests that methane gas from the system, which may have been damaged recently by a vehicle driving nearby, seeped into the house.

Any kind of spark — from a loose electrical plug, a refrigerator compressor, a lamp — could have ignited the gas, Bevis said.

An explosion tore through the back part of the house and killed the couple’s dog. Bevis said the home’s “occupant had complained about some problems with that septic system.”

On Monday, fire Capt. Steve Griner said natural-gas service to the home had been shut off long before the blast. Aquila reported that it checked for gas leaks in the neighborhood but found only one — minor seepage that could not have caused the explosion, a spokesman said.

Brian Sisco and Jody Johnston, the couple who lived in the house, weren’t home when the fire broke out. Johnston gave birth a day earlier at Via Christi Regional Medical Center-St. Joseph Campus.

The family has received emergency assistance from the American Red Cross.