Fire Destroys Indiana Library

Fire Destroys Indiana Library

The four-year-old Williamsport–Washington Township (Ind.) Public Library burned to the ground the evening of October 8 in what officials believe to be arson.

State Fire Marshal Roger Johnson told reporters October 9 that the fire started near the library’s trash collection area and quickly spread to the roof. “We’ve gathered some evidence and are vigorously pursuing all leads,” he said in the October 10 Lafayette Journal and Courier. The paper reported October 12 that the Warren County Sheriff’s Office is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist.

Damage estimates ranged as high as $5 million. The 9,500-square-foot building itself cost $1.3 million to build in 2002 and still had outstanding debt, the Journal and Courier reported October 10. Williamsport Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kevin Strickler said little was salvageable, apart from some local and state history books that were damaged by water but not burned. The library’s autographed James Whitcomb Riley and Booth Tarkington books were destroyed, as well as some first editions by Theodore Dreiser.

Library board President Nancy Litzenberger told the paper October 12 that the library is not yet offering temporary services but hopes to within a month. She added that the library plans to rebuild on the same site. “We have nowhere to go,” she said. “It’s just devastating and overwhelming to look at all that needs to be done.”

Library Director Christopher Brown told the paper October 10 that he was “devastated” but promised to rebuild. “I put my heart and soul into building this library.” Patron Melinda Bradbury added, “Whoever did this took a lot of opportunities away from the community.”

Posted October 13, 2006.