UPDATE: Man dies in overnight duplex fire

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email
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WICHITA, Kan. -- Jimmy Robinson sat on the charred steps of his duplex looking out over the mess. The gutted unit behind him had been home for him and his roommate on and off for the past year until a fire tore through Saturday morning.

As the Red Cross left just about five hours after that fire began, Robinson sat alone on the steps. His roommate, a close friend, not there to sit by his side.

He did not escape the fire.

"I know it's cliché, but he's in a better place now," Robinson said struggling to hold back his emotions.

Robinson's says his life is in pieces much like the burnt clothes and furniture now strewn across the front yard.

"I'm in a state of shock 'cause it's all just sinking in," Robinson said. "It's kind of a shock when you discover everything you had is gone."

He made that discovery after arriving home from a friend's house. He saw all the fire trucks outside the duplex in the 100 block of W. Zimmerly.

Crews say a passerby reported the fire a little after 2:30 a.m.

There were two people inside who were able to get out. Robinson's roommate could not. Fire crews found him inside in critical condition.

Fire Investigator Mark Reibenspies said the 41-year-old man later died at the hospital Saturday morning. His name has not yet been released.

Wichita Fire Department Battalion Chief John Turner said the man -- who they initially thought to be a man in his 20s or 30s -- suffered burns and smoke inhalation.

Turner estimates the cost of the damage to the duplex to be between $15,000 and $20,000.

Investigators have not yet determined the cause.

Crews say the man who died in the fire probably had little or no warning before the smoke overtook him. Neither duplex had smoke alarms, Turner said.

"Had there been one in there, it's very likely this could have been a different story," Robinson said. "It's one of those simple things that we don't think about until it's too late."

It is sadly too late for Robinson's friend, a carpet installer who enjoyed watching the Shockers.

"That man had a heart as big as Kansas," Robinson said.

But Robinson says he hopes by telling his story, it won't be too late for others to take action now and prevent something like this from happening again.

"Check the batteries," Robinson said. "Something as simple as that could save people's lives."

The family of the man killed in the fire on W. Zimmerly has set up a memorial fund in his honor. All the donations to the fund will go directly to the Wichita Fire Department to help buy smoke alarms for those in need.

You can donate to the fund by visiting any Emprise Bank location and asking for the Clifford Davis Memorial Fund.

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