Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2007

Blaze kindles kindness

Ember causes museum fire

July 12, 2007

With tears beginning to swell in her eyes, Debra Bates-Lamborn walked up to the front lawn of the burning museum she and many others in Lansing worked so hard to bring to the community.

As the former vice president of the Lansing Historical Society for 10 years and then president for another two, Bates-Lamborn had a direct connection in converting the old Santa Fe Railway depot into the museum it is today.

She looked on as firefighters dowsed the building's roof with water. All she could say was how sad it was to see the hard work of volunteers go up in flames.

The Lansing Historical Museum, 115 E. Kansas Ave., caught fire shortly after noon Monday.

Leavenworth County Fire District No. 1 Chief Rick Huhn said the fire was started in the museum's attic by an ember from a torch used earlier in the day to strip paint from the side of the building.

During the morning, a Lansing Correctional Facility work crew was given torches to help remove paint form the exterior of the museum. Huhn said one of the torches must have been held on one spot for too long, igniting an ember that got in the attic.

Huhn estimated the cost of damage to the building would be around $50,000 but the city won't have an exact figure until the insurance adjustor finishes assessing the damage.

City Administrator Mike Smith said the fire department was able to save just about everything. There were some files in the building that he said didn't even get wet.

For now, the city has hired the national firm SERVPRO, which will come in and help with the cleanup process. Smith said the company would be able to restore any smoke or water damage to the few artifacts that were slightly damaged as well as remove water from the inside of the building.

As for the structural damage, such as the roof, Smith said once the city has an exact amount from the insurance adjuster, another company will be hired to deal with that. In a few months, he said he hoped no one would ever know the museum was damaged. Until then, the museum will remain closed.

At the time of the fire, no one was in the museum, which is closed on Mondays. Firefighters responded to the call made by a corrections facility guard driving past.

With three fire departments on hand, firefighters split up as some began using water hoses on the smoke billowing from a hole in the roof, while others rushed to cover as many artifacts as they could to protect them from water damage.

Huhn said almost everything was saved. There was some water damage, but not too bad he said. The artifacts were loaded into trucks and taken to the Police Department garage on Fairlane for temporary storage.

"I would call it a small disaster," Mayor Kenneth Bernard said as he watched firefighters work to put out the flames.

He said there was a lot of time and effort put into the building and that many people in the community were going to be disappointed by the accident.

The museum is insured, so Bernard said the city would just take one step at a time to restore it to its original condition.

The museum, which the city has operated since the Lansing Historical Society turned it over in 2006, was currently being remodeled and contained no sprinkler system.

For Bates-Lamborn, the museum represented a time when Lansing residents came together to create something for the good of the community.

She said the Historical Society staged a campaign and used donations to raise money for the museum's roof. She said to look at it now and see the heads of firefighters poking through the original timbers was a sad sight to see that would devastate many.

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