By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — More than 30 people evacuated Kelley Library yesterday afternoon when an electrical fire sent smoke throughout the first floor.
The library was closed for about an hour as firefighters searched the building for the fire’s cause and ventilated the first floor using a large fan.
The small fire, which broke out at about 12:30 p.m., was traced to a malfunctioning heating and cooling unit in the children’s room on the first floor, according to Salem fire Capt. Jonathan Brackett.
Library director Alison Baker said there were approximately 20 patrons in the library and a dozen staff members when they smelled smoke. No youngsters were in the children’s room at the time, she said.
“We evacuated everyone out of the library, like we trained to do,” Baker said.
Six fire department vehicles responded to the fire, including an ambulance. But Brackett said the fire, including a strong odor, presented no serious danger to anyone at the library.
Most of the library patrons either waited in their cars for the library to reopen or left. Library employees gathered in front of the building while firefighting crews worked inside.
Bernie Smith, 83, of Salem was surprised to arrive at the library and find the parking lot full of firetrucks. Smith wasn’t sure whether to wait for the library to reopen or go home.
“I’m debating that right now,” he said.
Minutes later, the library was reopened about 1:30 p.m. Fire crews remained on the scene until about 1:45 p.m.