Archive for Thursday, May 31, 2001

Volunteers clean up library following fire

One building destroyed, others survive downtown fire

May 31, 2001

Despite being six inches away from a fire that destroyed a building more than 100 years old, the Basehor Community Library is still standing.

And thanks to a community wide effort, the library will be back in shape in no time.

A fire started about 5 p.m., Friday May 25, at The Cabinet Shop of Basehor, located next door to the library.

According to Leavenworth County Emergency Management Director Chuck Magaha, the fire was brought under control by 8:45 p.m. Despite the best efforts of numerous area fire departments, the building, however, was deemed a total loss.

Basehor Community Library Director Carla Kaiser said the building that houses the library sustained little damage, and except for a couple of water-ruined ceiling tiles, the building was structurally sound.

Although the library withstood the blaze, Kaiser said a community-wide effort has been underway to clean up the mess that the fire left behind. Kaiser said while she was watching the fire, many Basehor residents came up to her and volunteered to help clean up. On Saturday, approximately 50 people helped to wash books, walls and furniture that had smoke residue on them.

Overall, more than 10,000 items in the library had to be cleaned, and thanks to volunteer support, the library only had to be closed one day.

"I knew we had volunteers because all that night people would come up and say if there is anything I can do, let me know," Kaiser said. "It was just a matter of waiting and seeing how bad it was going to be.

"Everything that was exposed to the air has been wiped down, every book and every shelf," Kaiser added.

Kaiser said she was relieved when she learned from firefighters that the library would hold up under the intense blaze.

"The firefighters got here so quickly and they kept water almost continuously on the walls to keep it cool and to prevent damage," Kaiser said. "They (the firefighters) and the volunteers were the ones who helped to make sure we would be open today."

As luck would have it, a house on the other side of the cabinet shop was also saved from the carnage. The two-story house was more than 100 years old and was saved by firefighters continuously dousing the home with water.

The house did have some minor smoke and water damage, but considering what could have happened the house turned out fine, Magaha said.

The cabinet shop building was destroyed in the blaze. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Magaha said he was proud of the way the firefighters in the joint operation handled the situation. Magaha said every fire department in Leavenworth County responded to the fire. Bonner Springs also joined in the effort.

"I think we handled it fantastic," Magaha said. "It was hectic at first, but that's to be expected. It went really well."

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