- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007


Construction workers using a heat gun accidentally started Monday’s fire in the Georgetown public library that caused at least $20 million worth of damage, a D.C. fire department spokesman said yesterday.

The construction workers tried to put out the blaze themselves and waited 10 to 15 minutes before calling the fire department, spokesman Alan Etter said.

That delay allowed the fire to become much worse than it would have been if the construction workers had called right away, Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin said Wednesday. The library’s roof was collapsing when firefighters arrived shortly after 12:30 p.m.

The workers were renovating trim and windows on the 72-year-old building when the fire started. Heat guns can be used to strip paint.

The roof was heavily damaged, but historical documents on the second floor of the two-story building were not burned, though they were damaged by water.

The documents included historical records on almost every private residence in Georgetown dating back to the 1790s, a copy of the Maryland Gazette newspaper that reported the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and one of only eight Civil War-era maps of the District that show Union fortifications.

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty promised Wednesday to rebuild the library as soon as possible.

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