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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Fire at special education public school destroys classrooms, lab

There were no injuries as a result of the Friday fire

A fire destroyed classrooms at Alachua County public school Sidney Lanier Center on Friday afternoon.

Passersby called Gainesville Fire Rescue at  3:49 p.m, GFR Chief Shawn Hillhouse said.

No one was injured in the fire at 312 NW 16th Ave., according to a GFR press release.

It was a teacher workday and student holiday so there were few people on campus the whole day, ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson said.

Johnson said that there was significant water damage and smoke damage at the center. 

Three classrooms and a computer lab were very badly damaged, she said. These rooms will have to be set up elsewhere on campus.

Thirty firefighters and 10 firetrucks responded to the fire. The first GFR trucks were on scene within four minutes and found heavy smoke coming from the roof of the building.

The smoke was trapped by a double ceiling, allowing the fire to grow before being noticed, according to a press release.

GFR's crews opened the roof above the fire to extinguish the fire. It took about 10 minutes for firefighters to completely extinguish the fire, Hillhouse said.

GFR is still investigating the cause of the fire.

The center was dedicated to teaching children with disabilities from kindergarten through 22-years-old, according to the school’s website. In 2015-2016 school year, it expanded to offer public and continuous education programs, becoming the only public school in the district that teaches this age range of students.

Contact Jiselle at or follow her on Twitter @jiselle_lee.

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Jiselle Lee

Jiselle Lee was The Alligator’s Summer 2023 Editor-In-Chief. She was previously a reporter with NextShark News and a reporting intern at The Bradenton Herald.

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