Fire suppression sprinklers at the Charlevoix Public Library played a key part in containing an electrical fire on the building’s second floor early Saturday, but did cause water damage on both the library’s upper and lower levels.
The library remained closed through Monday for cleanup following the fire, and reopened with regular operating hours on Tuesday.
Charlevoix Township Fire Department Fire Chief Dan Thorp said that if it was not for the library’s sprinkler system — and given the time of day that it started — “the entire library could have burned down and they would probably have had to build a whole new library.”
“It would have been a good half-hour before anyone even noticed it burning. It is an old building with all the books — it would have had to be rebuilt,” Thorp said.
Thorp commended the library for its maintenance of fire suppression equipment, noting that “the library has done an outstanding job in keeping their equipment up to date.”
The fire chief said his department got called to the library for a fire alarm activation at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday.
“We were there until about 1:40 a.m.,” he said.
Thorp added, “By the time we got there and got into the building we heard water running and saw smoke that was coming out the front door.”
The fire chief said the sprinkler system had already put the fire out by the time firefighters entered the building.
“As we investigated, we saw that on the second floor in the director’s office area they had two humidifiers and the one on the lower level, powered by electricity, had some malfunction that we are not quite clear of,” said Thorp. “That malfunction caught on fire and there was a sprinkler head in that room which then was activated and put the fire out.
“The fire department did not have to spray any water to put out the fire.”
When firefighters walked into the building, only the sprinklers in the mechanical closet in the director’s office on the second floor were activated.
Thorp said, “Wherever the fire is, it reaches a certain temperature and sets the sprinklers off in that location.”
Charlevoix library director Ryan Deery said none of the technology or book collections were damaged. The only fire damage occurred in the maintenance closet and water damage occurred in the hallways on the first and second floors, said Deery, also stating about an inch of water flooded both floors in those areas.
Deery said clean-up company Serv Pro was on scene immediately the following morning and set up dehumidifies, heaters and other equipment which ran all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
“Most of the items do not need to be replaced.” said Deery. However, “some of the walls may still have water in them”. Serv Pro will be assessing the scene on Feb. 19 to determine if further steps need to be taken to rid the walls of moisture.
On Facebook, the library noted that Servpro was helping with the fire follow-up, and indicated: “We are confident that all the collections are safe and did not sustain any damage.”
A Sunday post on the library’s Facebook page read, “Thanks again to all of your support and offers of help. We are incredibly thankful both that the damage was not worse and that we are able to continue functioning as the hub and heart of the community so quickly.”
Deery said he is heartened by the outpouring of support from the community.