Officials are hopeful students can return to school Thursday after a fire ripped through the Willoughby Eastlake Board of Education building.

The building is gutted, and many school records are feared lost. Many are backed up, some are not.

The district’s computer server and phone system are out. Servers are located in the basement of the building, where water used to put the fire out drained.

Oddly, in places, something as simple as having a door closed kept some rooms intact.

When firefighters arrived, flames had totally engulfed the top two floors of the building. They were able to fight the blaze from inside, but had to retreat to an outside position when the top floors weakened and eventually gave way.

A frozen fire hydrant and high winds also contributed to their problems.

No one was injured.

Along with historical records that might be lost, the historical building housing the district offices is lost. It is an old mansion, a farmhouse that belonged to the Chandler family. It and all the surrounding land was willed to the district in 1936.

Being old construction, there were many ducts and chutes that allowed flames to go from floor to floor.  The building had no sprinklers and the wind was wicked.

Firefighters were beaten before they ever got there.

Anyone with district business should go to the temporary office being set up in the School of Innovation on Chardon Road.

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