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Woman found with critical injuries in possible ‘warming fire’ Sunday night at central Topeka church

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 5:56 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A woman suffered critical injuries Sunday night in a fire at a central Topeka church, and officials said the blaze may have been started by someone trying to keep warm.

The blaze, which was reported around 8:30 p.m. Sunday at Inward Faith Outreach Ministries at 625 S.W. Polk, caused an estimated $50,000 in damage, said Topeka Fire Marshal Todd Harrison.

First-arriving crews on Sunday night reported heavy smoke and flames coming from the one-story, brick building.

The church was believed to have been vacant at the time of the fire.

However, a search found an unresponsive woman was inside the building.

Firefighters rescued the woman from the burning building, Harrison said. American Medical Response ambulance then took the woman to Stormont Vail Hospital with life-threatening injuries.

A Topeka fire investigator responded to the scene to determine the cause of the blaze.

The initial report indicated the blaze was incendiary, or intentionally set, and likely was the result of a “warming fire.”

The entire $50,000 loss was associated with the structure.

It was the second time in just over two months that WIBW-TV has covered a fire at the church.

On the morning of Dec. 10, Topeka Fire Department crews also were called to the church where a blaze was reported.

That blaze, which started in a fireplace, “smoked up the entire building,” Topeka fire officials said.

The fireplace was in the right front portion of the building.

In the December incident, the blaze was out when firefighters arrived on the scene.

Firefighters in that incident found one person inside the building. It wasn’t immediately known if that individual was supposed to be in the building.

No injuries were reported in the December incident.

A woman who said she has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years told 13 NEWS on Monday morning that another fire occurred at the same building about three weeks ago.

Additional details weren’t available on Monday morning, as Sunday night’s blaze remained under investigation.

Anyone with information on Sunday night’s fire may call Shawnee County Crime Stoppers at 785-234-0007.

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