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Published: 10/24/2003

Sprinkler puts out library fire, damages children's books

Library preservationist Irene Martin examines water-damaged books with Nancy Eames, manager of the children's section that suffered water damage after a fire on the floor above. Library preservationist Irene Martin examines water-damaged books with Nancy Eames, manager of the children's section that suffered water damage after a fire on the floor above.
LUCAS MOBLEY / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

A fire at the downtown library in a third-floor woman's restroom was doused by the building's sprinkler system yesterday, but seeping water damaged some children's books on the floor below.

Upwards of 300 patrons and library employees left the Main Toledo-Lucas County Public Library at 325 North Michigan Ave. about 4:30 p.m. when the fire broke out, library officials said.

There were no injuries.

“I am heartsick about this,” Nancy Eames, manager of the children's library, said as she worked with staff members to move several hundred children's books made wet by the dripping water.

“This makes no sense. This is terrible,” she said.

Wet books will be freeze-dried to minimize damage. Books in the children's nonfiction collection about Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., sustained damage.

Chris Kozak, a library spokesman, said it appeared a toilet paper dispenser had been set on fire. He had no information about a suspect.

A small piece of melted plastic on a rest room stall was all that remained of the dispenser in the rest room located off a hall leading to the library's local history and rare book collections on the third floor.

Fire officials were not summoned after the fire was put out, Mr. Kozak said.

“Our sprinkler system went on and extinguished it,” he said. No exact cause or a damage estimate was available. The loss is covered by insurance, he said.

The library was closed shortly after the fire to allow for cleanup. Mr. Kozak said last night the library's first floor collections will be open today, but staff will need more time to determine when the children's section reopens.

Charles Oswanski, superintendent of facilities and operations, said the fire caused one sprinkler head in the restroom to open after a heat sensor reached about 160 degrees.

“It flooded the rest room. It flooded the hallway pretty quickly,” he said. “We may have to freeze-dry some books, but we are in good shape. We will be putting mold control on and dehumidifying ... to get everything dried out.”



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