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On March 29, 1917 “two fires of suspicious origin” broke out at separate ends of the Brooklyn Public Library-Pacific Branch. The fire in the right wing of the building died out. However, the fire in the left wing of the building grew substantially before anyone noticed. 

 

 

In the end, the interior of the building was destroyed, several thousand books were ruined due to smoke and water, and the damage was estimated to be $30,000-$50,000. Looking at Brooklyn Public Library Board Proceedings from 1917-1919, it’s evident it took the library two years to replace their building, furnishings, and collection.

 

 

From the NFPA Quarterly vol.10, no.4, 1917:

“Tarpaulins were stretched in hopes of being able to save some of the books in the burning portion of the building, and thirty firemen on the main floor had a narrow escape when three balconies collapsed simultaneously. The blaze was under control after two hours’ work.

More interesting, however, to our members than the details of the fire will be the accompanying photographs for which we are indebted to the courtesy of Mr. F. J. T. Stewart. In Mr. Stewart’s own words they ‘show how a public library should not be constructed.’ Large spaces between partitions were used as ducts for pipes, vents, etc., and formed a flue of liberal size directly connecting the cellar with a large combustible attic. The result was that when the fire occurred in the cellar it immediately communicated to the attic causing the roof to collapse, and involving heavy damage to the entire building with the exception of the masonry walls.”



~ Written by Jenny DeRocher, Simmons College '18 MLIS Candidate,


For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.


The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

As the old adage goes, "It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt." 
Truer words were never spoken when it comes to April Fools' Day, which can be fun, mean, or downright dangerous depending on who's pulling the gag. While we know that nobody reading this blog would ever dream of doing the latter, plenty of people in this wild world certainly have, and we've got proof. Here are a few pranks that turned out a bit different than they were originally intended. 
Hamper Hijinks
It started with the pop of a single April Fools' firecracker. It ended with significant smoke and fire damage to at least one apartment and the evacuation of the entire complex.
According to the news website MLive, on April 1, 2015, a resident of the Campus West Apartments in Allendale Township, Michigan, tossed a firecracker into a laundry hamper as a joke. Within moments, smoke began billowing from the hamper, filling the apartment and prompting residents to evacuate the unit as well as the complex. The fire department was called, and by the time crews arrived there were smoke and flames billowing from the apartment. Crews from two neighboring communities were called to help fight the blaze. No injuries or deaths were reported.
Residents of the apartment where the fire originated may have been able to douse the flames in the early moments of the fire, but the unit was not equipped with a fire extinguisher. According to MLive, fire officials said there was no fire extinguisher inside the apartment due to a code exception for townhouse structures.
Potent Pepper
An 1839 Baltimore Sun article tells the first-person account of an unnamed narrator who filled a pepper shaker with gunpowder, then requested that his cook "keep up a good fire, and give me a beef bone for breakfast." 
The cook peppered the bone over the gridiron, which resulted in a welter of mini explosions. Frightened, the cook dropped the entire pepper castor into the fire. The resulting explosion blew up the boiler, scalded a cat and three kittens, and sent the porter "with a live coal in his eye, dancing about, blind with rage." 
The unknown author ends the piece by glibly noting that he "never laughed so much in my life."
Aggrieved Over Aliens
On October 30, 1938, Halloween eve, Orson Welles narrated a radio adaptation of H.G Wells' novel "War of the Worlds," about a Martian invasion of Earth. The urgency of the documentary-style broadcast convinced plenty of listeners—though many were later loathe to admit it—that the planet was under attack by ruthless aliens. Won't get fooled again, everyone said. 
Apparently the lesson wasn't learned, because on April 1, 2010, a Jordanian newspaper ran a bogus front-page article about a UFO landing near the desert town of Jafr. The mayor of the town wasn't in on the joke, though, and took the story all too seriously. According to an article in The Telegraph, the mayor canceled schools, sent in soldiers, and almost evacuated the town's 13,000 residents. When he found out it was all a prank, he threatened to sue the paper.
In case you're wondering, as I was, neither NFPA 1600, Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity/Continuity of Operations Programs, nor NFPA 1616, Mass Evacuation, Sheltering, and Re-entry Programs, makes mention of alien invasions.

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