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Fire closes main Clearwater library

The main Clearwater Public Library will be closed today after a fire Monday damaged the building's electrical system. No one was injured in the fire at 100 N Osceola Ave., and the library's books probably were not damaged by smoke that seeped into some parts of the building, said Linda Mielke, Clearwater library director.

"We'll be closed for at least 24 hours and maybe 48 hours," Mielke said Monday afternoon. "We really regret the inconvenience, and we'll be open as soon as we can."

The fire occurred at 10:45 a.m. and started in the main electrical panel inside the library at 100 N Osceola Ave., said Clearwater Deputy Fire Chief David Kinsey. Library employees evacuated about 100 people, including a woman in the restroom with two babies.

A short possibly caused by a loose connection or some similar problem ignited the fire, Kinsey said. The fire traveled along wiring from inside the library to an electrical box outside and then into a transformer, affecting power service to the entire building.

Kinsey estimated damage at $5,000 to $10,000.

"It fried the wiring and messed it up good," he said. "The only damage is to the electrical system, but we're dealing with big wires and lots of it."

The library's electrical panel is in a room in the basement. Smoke filled that room, the employee lounge and other basement areas, but little smoke got into the bookshelf area, Kinsey said.

The library has about 200,000 books. The building is 75 years old, although some portions are newer.

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