Wire causes fire in Baker Reserves

by Jennifer Thomas | 7/13/01 5:00am

An electrical fire which began at 2:50 p.m. Wednesday afternoon kept the Baker Library Reserves out of commission for the evening.

No one was injured, and no damage was done to the acclaimed Orozco murals, which had been covered in protective plastic at the time. The approximate cost of the damage to the library itself is not yet known.

The fire began when painting foreman Dan Estes of M.L. McDonald -- who had been striping paint off the wall separating the reserves desk from the adjoining computer cluster -- accidentally hit an electrical wire with his putty knife, Estes said.

According to Estes, the knife caused the wire to spark, suddenly engulfing the wall into ceiling-high flames.

Estes immediately approached the nearby fire extinguisher and instructed Rasha Dakhil '03 and Nhan Huynh '03, who were manning the reserve desk at the time, to call 911.

Within approximately 15 seconds Estes was able to extinguish the fire, after which time the students who had been reading in the Reserves quickly vacated the building, Estes explained.

According to several witnesses, the fire did not seem to trigger a fire alarm, and Estes said he had to pull the alarm manually.

Both Safety and Security and the Hanover Fire Department arrived on the scene after the fire had already been extinguished, according to Sergeant Rebel Roberts of Safety and Security.

Due to the electrical nature of the fire, Estes was able to effectively use the chemical fire extinguisher installed in the Reserve Corridor to quell the flames. Had the available extinguisher been water-based, the fire may have continued, Estes said.

Because of possible health risks presented by the chemicals spread by the fire extinguisher and the large amount of smoke produced by the fire, Baker library was closed until approximately 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, and the Reserves were closed until the following morning.

"Danny is being very modest about his role, but he reacted quickly and properly and did a darn good job," Corky Scot, a library administrative specialist, said of Estes.

Estes said that when the fire started, his reaction was adrenaline-inspired.

"All I could think about was the mural and the 15 people that were in there," he said, adding that had the fire grown, it could have blocked the only exit from the computer cluster.

Currently the Reserves lacks a sprinkler system in case of fire.

"Ironically there was not a sprinkler system in place because we were just about to install it," Director of Administrative Services John Crane said. The sprinklers should be in place within the year, he added.