A hired moving truck with a cargo of music library materials caught fire on Wall Street outside of Sterling Memorial Library shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday.
While the conflagration all but destroyed the front of the truck, Music Librarian Kendall Crilly said the damage to library documents and recordings was minimal, and Yale Fire Marshal Michael Johns said no injuries were reported.
Investigators determined the fire had begun in the heating element of the truck’s engine, and that it was completely accidental, Johns said.
The drivers of the truck smelled smoke shortly after parking the vehicle at the intersection of Wall and York streets.
“It started going pretty good pretty quickly,” Johns said, adding that J. Lloyd Suttle, an associate Yale provost, noticed the fire and called it in.
The New Haven Fire Department, representatives of the fire marshal’s office and Yale police responded to the scene almost immediately. Firefighters were warned about the sensitive nature of the truck’s cargo and managed to extinguish the fire without further damaging the library materials, Johns said.
“Without the good job done on this thing, it would have been a catastrophic loss,” he added.
The truck was carrying documents and recordings from the music library’s former home in Sprague Hall to its current location inside Sterling.
The fire slightly charred one musical score, while several items had to be sent to the library’s conservation department to be carefully dried. There was no other permanent damage.
Crilly credited the library’s conservation and preservation experts with saving the materials once the fire was extinguished.
“Watching them this afternoon as they triaged materials, assessed damage and performed immediate remedies was truly an amazing thing for all the rest of us to observe,” Crilly said in an e-mail to colleagues that he also provided to the Yale Daily News.
Crilly said he was glad the damage was so light and, more importantly, that nobody was hurt.
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