Contractor Denies Responsibility for Fire

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 11, 2007

The contractor handling the renovation of the Georgetown public library has denied any role in last week's fire, saying it began in an area where the library's own maintenance crew was working.

D.C. Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin said last week that the fire was probably started by a heat gun as a construction worker removed paint and other material from a window on the second floor of the 72-year-old Georgian-style mansion, at Wisconsin Avenue and R Street NW.

Hyattsville-based Dynamic Corp., which was awarded the renovation contract, issued a news release yesterday stating that the company conducted its own investigation and found that its workers and subcontractors were using wire brushes, not heat guns, on the windows when the fire started.

The company said it believes that a D.C library staff member was working on the mechanical system in the attic and that the fire started there.

"We were working on windows on the opposite side of the building," Dynamic Corp. President Ebenezer Adewunmi said.

Alan Etter, spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said the fire probably started on the library's second floor, not in the attic. It began about noon April 30 and quickly spread, drawing about 200 fire personnel.

City officials said it will cost as much as $20 million to rebuild the library, which was in the midst of a redesign and renovation. The work includes the restoration of exterior doors and windows, stone masonry and ornamental railings and grates.

Library spokeswoman Monica Lewis said yesterday that she could not confirm whether a library employee was working in the attic when the fire started. "I don't know if somebody was working on the mechanical system at that time," she said.

Etter reiterated yesterday that a preliminary report from the fire department says the blaze was started by a heat gun.

"We know an open heat source caused the fire," Etter said. "Whoever was up there, I don't know."

Investigators believe that somebody tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the flames, Etter said. The fire burned for up to 15 minutes before 911 was called.

Rubin did not specifically blame Dynamic Corp. in last week's statement on the cause, but the company said it felt unfairly targeted. Its news release stated that the firm is committed to safety and will continue to cooperate with authorities investigating the blaze.

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