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Fire broke out on the twentieth floor of the Tower Tuesday, causing extensive damage to part of the Hoblitzelle Theater Arts Library–the irreplaceable P. T. Barnum, Robert Downing, and Harry Houdini collections.

The alarm was turned in at 11:26 a.m., and the fire was under control and restricted to an air shaft in the northwest part of the building by 1 p.m., said H. B. Whitworth, University fire marshall. The fire was out by 1:55 p.m.

Sparks from an acetylene torch apparently caught some books on fire, said Capt. Robert R. Dickerson of the Austin Fire Department. The torch was being used in converting some heating ducts to use for air-conditioning.

Heavy fire and water damage was evident on the twentieth floor, and heat and smoke damaged at least the nineteenth and twenty-first floors, Whitworth said.

Approximately 60 Austin firemen fought the blaze. They used the Tower elevator and ran up the Tower stairways carrying heavy equipment to the flame and smoke-filled twentieth floor. There has never been an alarm or sprinkling system in the Tower, which houses valuable books and manuscripts.

The libraries and offices of the Tower and Main Building were haphazardly evacuated by fire fighters and building maintenance men. Students, faculty, and staff wandered through the smoke-filled lower floors, as firemen rushed their equipment up and down the steps.

As the water was pumped up to the twentieth floor, it gushed down the elevator shaft and seeped out on other floors of the building.

Firemen Charles Taylor, Harold Lundgren, and Alex Hunter were overcome by smoke and were taken to Brackenridge Hospital. All are in "satisfactory" condition, hospital spokesman said.

Dr. Norman Hackerman, vice-chancellor for academic affairs, closed the main bu8ilding for the remainder of Tuesday and said that is might possibly be closed Wednesday.

Chancellor Harry Ransom is in Washington and could not be reached for comment. Dr. L. D. Haskew , vice-chancellor, said he thought that Dr. Ranson would return immediately because of the fire.

University personnel started cleaning up with vacuum cleaners, mops, and brooms shortly after 2 p.m.

Summer Texan. August 10, 1965.
Article by: Kaye Northcott.

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3 May 1999
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