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Firefighters Hailed For Work On 1986 Blaze At LA Central Library

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Smoke engulfs the landmark Central Library as fire trucks fight the blaze that destroyed 20 percent of the library's 2.6 million volumes on April 29, 1986. (credit: Ben Martin//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Smoke engulfs the landmark Central Library as fire trucks fight the blaze that destroyed 20 percent of the library’s 2.6 million volumes on April 29, 1986. (credit: Ben Martin//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The city’s biggest collection of books was almost reduced to ashes twenty-five years ago on Friday in a dramatic fire that took several hours and hundreds of firefighters to put out.

The blaze at the Los Angeles Central Library at 630 W. Fifth St. in downtown was first reported at 10:52 a.m. on April 29, 1986. Over 350 firefighters battled the flames for 7 hours and 38 minutes before finally declaring victory.

Every resident in the city can take pride in the work of local firefighters to save the estimated 1.2 million books housed in the landmark structure, Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

“Each time a member of your Los Angeles Fire Department walks into the magnificent Los Angeles Central Library, they take reverent pause to consider how easily it could all be gone all of it but for the work of more than 350 of their brothers and sisters who gave their all 25 years ago today,” Humphrey said.

Fifty-five firefighters and one civilian were injured, none critically, according to a report in the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Archive.

The report says the library, which was originally constructed in 1926, faced a potential $160 million loss from the fire, but crews limited the cost to $22 million in structure and contents fire damage.

“One factor that helped prevent the loss from being larger was the recognition and implementation of salvage operations early in the fire,” according to the report. “Out of over 1.2 million books that were in the library at the time of the fire, only 350,000 received any fire or water damage.”

Click here for a history of fires at the Central Library.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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