Thursday marks 8 years since ‘devastating’ fire at LPS district office

file: LPS FIRE
file: LPS FIRE

Thursday marked eight years since a fire ravaged the Lincoln Public Schools District Office.

More than 20 Lincoln Fire and Rescue units, including around 70 firefighters, responded to the blaze around 11 p.m. to the building at 5901 O Street. They battled winds gusting at nearly 40 miles per hour, along with rain and lightning.

The entire west half of the building was destroyed, causing an estimated $20 million in damage.

“It’s devastating hard to really imagine unless you see how damaging this is to us,” LPS Superintendent Steve Joel told reporters at the time. “It’s just watching these flames…it’s just tearing me up.”

An LPS employee was working late that night when he smelled smoke and called 911.

Pat Borer, serving as interim assistant fire chief at the time, said the fire ranked among the largest in Lincoln. He said the vast amount of paper inside the building contributed to its size.

“The fire grew rapidly,” Borer said at the time. “We couldn’t get a handle on it.”

The stormy conditions forced firefighters off the roof and had to attack the fire from outside the building.

Officials said the administration building was not equipped with a sprinkler system.

Sharon Brewster, a former LPS teacher accused of starting the fire, was ultimately sentenced to 8-12 years in prison for the crime. Authorities said Brewster was upset with her employee evaluation and was attempting to burn her supervisor’s files.

She cried tears of remorse during her sentencing.

“People’s family photos, computerized frames, and little knick knacks that their children had made and I realized it’s horrible and I can’t get those things back and there’s nothing I could do to bring those things back,” Brewster said in the courtroom. “In a way I hope somehow they have forgiveness in their heart and some may not be able to and I understand that. I am extremely horrified by the significant damage that occurred as a result of my actions.”

 

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