Blaze drains Breidablik library book collection

POULSBO — A small fire that broke out in the Breidablik Elementary library Monday morning has caused huge problems for the school.

POULSBO — A small fire that broke out in the Breidablik Elementary library Monday morning has caused huge problems for the school.

The blaze was doused by the school’s sprinkler system, but so were many of the books and other items in the school’s library. Much of the library’s educational collection — which took hours of work and thousands of dollars to assemble — is ruined.

The fire began shortly before 2 a.m. in the elementary school’s large lizard cage, which held two bearded dragons, Ishtar and Kevin.

The blaze triggered the school’s automatic sprinkler system, which contained the fire but sprayed water into the room until Poulsbo Fire Department crews arrived.

Firefighters finished extinguishing the flare up.

The lizards were unharmed. One burrowed under the sand in the cage, while the other managed to escape and was later caught by firefighters. One of the lizards — school sources aren’t sure whether it was Kevin or Ishtar — did injure a tail.

Numerous library books were not as lucky.

The sprinkler system doused the room, and Monday morning, school officials and volunteers began the long task of pulling thousands of wet or damp books off the shelves.

While some of the reading material was set on tables with their pages fanned out in an attempt to dry them, many were obviously beyond saving.

As volunteers wheeled cart after cart of books into the room, copies of many children’s classic were ruined; a copy of “A Wrinkle In Time,” was fanned out to dry, while nearby, two hardback copies of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” sat stacked, with beads of water still sitting on their surface.

Sue Sampson, the librarian at Vinland Elementary, came to the school to help, and as she searched through the books, looking for some that were dry enough to save, she remarked, “It makes you want to cry when you see all the titles that are going into the trash.”

The library’s inventory was about 13,000 items, librarians estimated on Monday morning, noting that the count includes educational toys and other articles besides books.

Principal Lynn Rasmussen said there is no way to formally measure the damage until all the books were taken off shelves and sorted through, but she thought as much as two-thirds of the collection may be ruined.

“That’s the hardest part to deal with. We’re going to lose so many of our books and materials,” Rasmussen said Monday morning, standing on the now-warped library carpet and helping to coordinate volunteers.

Mary Fox, the school librarian, said the fire was especially hurtful because the school had made big strides in expanding its collection over the last few years.

“That’s been our focus, to build the collection,” she said.

Officials from the PFD representatives said they believe the fire began in the cage’s electrical system, which is used to operate lights and heat lamps in the large cage.

Water from the sprinkler head also ran into the hallway and affected eight nearby classrooms with minor carpet damage.

The lizards were on loan from Kindred Spirits, a North Kitsap-based animal sanctuary. They were returned there early Monday.