Los Angeles: Smoke in the Stacks

Smoke in the Stacks

The staff at Los Angeles' 60-year-old landmark Central Library had long suspected that the four towers containing most of the library's books were potential chimney flues. The towers turned out to be just that as a conflagration engulfed the largest library in the West last week. More than 250 firemen fought the blaze for more than six hours.

Though the fire destroyed about 20% of the 2.6 million volumes, the rare-book and historical-photograph collections appeared unscathed. Librarians and volunteers quickly began packing water-logged volumes to be sent out for freeze-drying.

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