Investigation into Abilene theater fire ongoing

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ABILENE, Kansas – For the second time in less than 18 months another historic building in Abilene is destroyed by a fire.

Wednesday, the fire blazed through the Great Plains Theatre. Fire units battled the blaze, but couldn’t save it.

“I thought to myself, oh no big deal, they can put it out, we’ll just have to fix that part, we’ll be okay…and then as time progressed the roof caved in,” said Edie Jiles, a parent from the theatre, “and then I knew it was over.”

“It was horrible, I mean, just seeing that engulfed in flames…and something that is just such a big icon of the town, it was just so sad,” said Torey Berndt with the Abilene Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, residents came over to the site, taking picture and reflecting on memories made in the building. Despite losing the facility which received talent from all over the country, officials from the theatre still have high hopes for what’s to come.

“It’s really hard to lose the building and all of the stuff we had in it, but it’s just stuff. No one was in there, we could have had a movie or a kids program running, but no one was in there,” said Maggie Hoffman with the Great Plains Theatre. “So we’ve got great people so I mean, we can only go up from here.”

For residents invested in the theatre, losing the building was sad, but they believe the group will be able to rebuild and have a strong place in the community.

“I think that we can come back bigger and stronger,” Jiles commented, “and maybe people in the community will really see, wow, this isn’t just a building, this is a place for family.”

The investigation into just what caused that fire Wednesday night is still ongoing, for now officials with the theatre say they’re working to determine where shows that were scheduled to be inside the theatre will take place.

It was the second historic Abilene building to be destroyed by fire in less than two years. The Kirby House, a landmark restaurant, burned to the ground in February of 2013.

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