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The Student News Site of Lafayette High School

The Lafayette Times

The Student News Site of Lafayette High School

The Lafayette Times

Chemical Fire in the Beeler Auditorium

Cassady Gorrell
Image taken by Ms. Gorrell of the damage done to the Beeler auditorium after the chemical fire. Taken on December 8th, 2023

On December 8th around midnight, a chemical fire broke out within Beeler Auditorium here at Lafayette High School. Luckily, no one was injured, and the fire was quickly contained by the sprinkler system. Beeler Auditorium was built during renovations made to Lafayette between 1975 and 1977, at the same time that air conditioning was added to the building and is named after Thelma Beeler, recognizing her achievements over 29 years of teaching Speech and Drama.

Lafayette Theater still doesn’t have all the details of the fire and is currently working with the Lexington Fire Department to discover the full story. The working theory is that the cause of the fire was the spontaneous combustion of wood stain or paint thinner left on rags in the set decorating area backstage in Beeler. The combustion of chemicals used for staining or cleaning wood stains can happen when those chemicals are left on rags or towels tightly balled together or in other situations where the rags are close together. Thankfully. no one was in the building at the time of the fire, but there was extensive damage to the auditorium. The props for the upcoming Lafayette Theater production, Fiddler on the Roof, were also damaged and will have to be remade.

In addition to the fire damage to the auditorium, the sprinklers that helped battle the fire ended up causing water damage by flooding the auditorium and the classroom next door with two inches of water. Lafayette had to replace many things including the cardboard sets for the theatre production of Cardboard Stories, causing them to start practically from the beginning. This has caused a lot of stress with the state competition quickly approaching in March that the theater group will be participating in. Lafayette Theater teacher Ms. Gorrell explained, “Lafayette is working with district teams and outside contractors to evaluate the damage and address repairs, clean-up, and restoration as quickly as possible. As we learn more information and details about upcoming events in Beeler Auditorium will be shared as soon as possible!”

It is too soon to know — or even estimate — how long it will take for Beeler to be completely back to its original state. How the district intends to prioritize the expense is also up in the air. The goal is for the damage and the renovations not to interfere with Lafayette Theater events such as classes and future plays. The spring musical Fiddler on the Roof rehearsals have continued but have been relocated into the music building while things in the theater get sorted out and repaired.

There was however a disruption to the workings of the theater department when certain theater classes and their finals could no longer be presented in Beeler. The presentations were originally planned to take place in Beeler on December 12th and have instead been rescheduled and relocated to December 14th in a classroom with Ms. Gorrell kindly filming the performances in order to send them out to family and supporters of the classes.

Responses from students in theater classes have made sense, as said by sophomore Jamie Stevens in theater 2, “I think it’s kind of disappointing because certain classes were working in there daily…”. Sophomore Logan Gwynn, a member of the Fiddler on the Roof cast, also stated, “It’s not good because (Lafayette Theater) have to run a production and it’s hard to deal with the stress from the show and take care of our theater at the same time,”.

Students are conflicted with emotions of disappointment and stress from needing to take care of and not being able to use the theater. Students are already dealing with stress from finals and truly need a break.

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About the Contributor
Harper Hudkins, Staff Writer

Harper is a freshman at Lafayette High School. When they are not busy at school or doing gymnastics, you can see them trying out for school plays, reading, or just listening to music. They have a multitude of hobbies and will talk to you about them at the most random moments. They are very excited to write for the Times.