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When a Fire Strikes a Library

When we think of our communities, it's hard to imagine one without a library. Libraries provide neighborhoods with incredibly important services that go way beyond reading books: computer access, educational activities and services, and a chance to make friends with others in the community. We can't even picture something threatening occurring somewhere as innocuous as a library, but as with any place where the public gathers, the risk is there. One risk that would seem unimaginable is a fire, but in fact, it could (and does) happen. Today, we will look at a fire that occurred out in California about 35 years ago.

On April 26, 1986, a fire broke out at the Central Library in Los Angeles. Around 11 am, a fire alarm went off, which prompted the security guards to alert the fire department and evacuate the 400 individuals who were inside the library at the time.  Once the fire department arrived, it took a little while for the firefighters to pinpoint the exact location of the fire because of the complex layout of the library.

The fire was discovered in the stacks of the library, and there were significant losses as a result, as would be expected. Two hundred thousand (200,000) books were consumed by the flames, including the largest collection of patents in the Western U.S. Two-thirds of the magazines were burned as well as an additional 600,000 volumes that were destroyed because of smoke and water damage.

While this is a staggering loss for any library to face, thankfully, there were no human casualties, and everyone who was inside was safely evacuated.

However, there's a bigger tragedy in this: after investigation, the fire inspectors determined that the cause of the fire was 'suspicious.' As to the severity of the fire, there were several factors that contributed to the significant losses: inadequate and insufficient automatic sprinkler systems, vertical ventilations and other locations in the stacks that had unprotected openings, and, as might be expected, the incredible flammability of the books, which provided an enormous amount of fuel for the fire.

Thankfully, library fires are something we just don't hear about every day. A library fire would be one of the most significant losses that a community could face. However, we still need to have our guard up when it comes to library fires and see that all layers and levels of fire protection are in place, so that we never have to face a loss of this magnitude.

In any public gathering location, not just libraries, the risk of fire is there. In order to minimize that risk, it's important that all FDNY codes are followed, including flameproofing. Flameproofing is vitally important in that decorative materials are treated with fire retardants which makes them non-combustible in the event of the fire - meaning, they will not contribute to the spread or severity of a fire.

If your business has fire safety questions or is need of flameproofing services, call us today. Manhattan Flameproofing has been serving Manhattan and all the boroughs of New York City in addition to the Greater Metro NY area for over 50 years. We are here to serve you as well: 1-800-268-7993.




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