The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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October 8, 2013

Sparks force Clinton Library evacuation

CLINTON — Clinton Public Library Circulation Clerk Kendra Evers heard a weird clicking noise coming from a ceiling light Tuesday.

Soon after, she smelled an odd odor and saw flames leaking out of the light.

“If it had escaped it would have caught the ceiling on fire,” Evers said.

Evers said this is the second time that light fixture — in the main floor media room on the west side of the library — has blown a ballast. She and her colleagues turned off the circuit breaker as soon as she noticed flames and evacuated the building Tuesday.

“It sparked and it flamed,” Director Amy Birtell said. “It’s hard to know if the ceiling is on fire or if this is contained to the light fixture. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

The Clinton Fire Department responded to the library at approximately 10:11 a.m. with one engine, two ladder trucks, two ambulances and a command vehicle. Lt. Richard Johannsen confirmed that a ballast in the florescent fixture went bad, but any fire was contained within the metal parts of the fixture. Firefighters left at 10:36 a.m.

Staff were allowed back inside the library at approximately 10:30 a.m. However the entire room where the light blew will remain dark until that light can be repaired. A representative from the library announced Tuesday afternoon that it will close early each day at 7 p.m. until further notice.

Birtell added these old lights are becoming a problem, with other ballasts having blown out recently.

“It’s just another reason why we have to get some work done,” Birtell said.

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