An automatic fire alarm went to Fire Station 69 at 7:10 a.m. this morning, announcing a fire in the Pacific Palisades Branch Library.
Stationed just a block from the library, firemen responded immediately and noticed smoke on the roof. Captains Robert Bates and Jeff Brown asked for additional resources and Fire Stations 23, 63 and 19 and Battalion 9 responded.
According to Battalion 9 Chief Joseph Everett, the fire was caused by an electrical light that was arcing (sparking). He said “the fire probably started last night,” but the smoke was only apparent this morning.
When firefighters arrived, they went to the roof to make cuts, not only to ventilate the fire, but to pinpoint the fire and stop it from spreading through the space between the metal roof and the wood roof throughout the building.
According to Captain Brown, they had to cut a 12’ by 12’ space, which was a challenge. Chainsaws and rotary saws were used to cut through the metal and wood, and then the wood had to be pulled off the ceiling from the beams. The contractor who built the new library back in 2002 used long, 16-penny nails, which made it harder to pull out the wood.
The sprinklers, which are in sections of the library, were going off in the area where there was smoke — in the children’s section.
Firefighters covered the books with plastic sheeting and shut off the sprinkler system in order to minimize damage.
“Salvage became our main priority,” Everett said. “The lion’s share of the library will be salvaged.”
“Historically when there have been library fires, books are an important asset,” he said, adding that because of the quick work by firefighters the majority of the books were saved. “With important items, once the water starts dropping there is no turning back.”
It took the 30 firefighters about 50 minutes to knock down the fire. Some of the books in the children’s section did receive water from the sprinklers, and the carpet was soaked. But it appeared that the plastic placed by firefighters minimized the damage.
The rest of the library had water on the floor, but the computers, the front desk section and the adult section were unharmed, as was the front of the library where the DVD section is located, as well as staff offices and a storage room.
Laura Schneider, president of the Friends of the Palisades Library, rushed to the library and spoke to Captain Everett and Mary Hopf, senior librarian.
Afterwards, Schneider sent an email to her Friends board members and said, “I’m sure we’ll have a better feel for the plan going forward by our meeting on Tuesday.”