Friday, April 29, 2011

The Library Fire: 25 Years Ago

The Los Angeles Library Facebook page carried this picture--I sure would not have remembered otherwise. April 29, 1986, was the day that an arson fire broke out just before 11 AM at the mail library on 5th Street. By 5 PM, 60 units and 350 firefighters were involved.

You can read a blow-by-blow description of the fire at the LAFD Historical Society website, or at the LAFD Historical Archive.

Here's a sample: "As the heat and fire crept through the building, fire attack companies were forced to withdraw and be replaced every 15 minutes. Every time a hose line was opened up inside, super-heated steam pushed the fire attack company back."

In the end, 350,000-400,000 books--$20 million worth--were destroyed outright. Water and smoke damaged more. Still, according to the LAFD Historical Archive, 8.5 million books were saved.

Was the arsonist ever caught? I think not.

1 comment:

Judy Herman said...

I didn't remember the date either, but I was there on that awful day. The alarm sounded when I was in the underground stacks searching for a quotation in the Oxford Book of Death.

The police had a suspect who, I believe, was the perpetrator. The photo they showed certainly looked like the fellow who gained access to the stacks by saying he was a new employee.

Don't forget, there was a second arson fire weeks later during the clean-up operations. That would have been an inside job, perhaps by a temporary "security" person.