HORTON — A fire engulfed a small house on Tuesday afternoon in Horton, causing its to collapse, before spreading and bringing complete ruin to two neighboring homes on either side, authorities say, although no one suffered any injuries aside from minor smoke exposure.

Horton Chief of Police John Calhoon, who also serves as the Horton city manager, said at the scene that he and another first responder had been about a minute away from the scene when a 911 call reporting a house fire came in at about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. Upon arrival, he found the original house lost to the flames, believed to be linked to the recent installation of a wood-burning stove. However, Calhoon said, the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

“The smoke was very heavy,” he said. “We did have a few of the residents checked out. We had to get away from the smoke a few times, some of the first responders did.

“I’m so thankful. I mean, we’ve got responders from a thirty mile radius helping us out here.”

Calhoon said the original house burned to the ground before first responders could begin attacking the blaze, and it became obvious that the fire would spread to the two neighboring homes no matter what firefighters did. Surely enough, by 1 p.m. Tuesday, flames had affected all three structures, with the original house burning off all of the fuel on site throughout the afternoon as firefighters battled to keep the blaze from spreading further.

A damage estimate isn’t yet available, but wrecking equipment had been brought in by 4 p.m. Tuesday to demolish the easternmost house, which had been gutted by the fire with only its blackened exterior walls remaining. Crews remained on site to perform additional demolition work on the site. Calhoon said that four families, about 12 people in total, had been rendered without a home by the fire. He said the local government is working with the American Red Cross of Topeka to provide emergency aid to the victims.

The City of Horton confirmed that all three houses are considered “destroyed” at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and announced that the victims are in need of clothing and food, and posted clothing sizes to its Facebook page. Any clothing or financial aid donations have been directed to the Horton Police Department, 205 East Eighth St. in Horton. Call 785-486-2694 for more information.

In addition to the Horton police and fire departments, the scene received aid from the Washington Township Fire Department of Everest, the Everest Fire Department and the Atchison County Rural Fire District No. 2 of Effingham to combat the blaze.

Marcus Clem can be reached

via marcus.clem@atchisonglobenow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @AdAstraGorilla

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