Fire at former Dusty Bookshelf leads to ‘total loss’ of Aggieville building

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Firefighters work to contain the fire inside The Dusty Bookshelf on March 2, 2017. (Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

By Rafael Garcia, Kaitlyn Alanis and Alex Brase

The building that housed The Dusty Bookshelf before the bookstore closed for remodeling was destroyed Thursday morning in a fire caused by the “self-heating of floor finishing materials,” the Manhattan Fire Department said in a news release Thursday evening.

The fire caused about $822,000 in damages to The Dusty Bookshelf building and reported smoke damage to neighboring businesses Varsity Donuts and Thread.

The Manhattan Fire Department received a call at 3:45 a.m. Thursday that said smoke was coming from the building, Ryan Almes, deputy chief for the Manhattan Fire Department, said.

“Our crews made an interior attack on the fire and were able to put some of the fire out, but the fire was in some concealed spaces and conditions inside the building worsened, and we pulled our crews out of the building,” Almes said.

The team of 30 firefighters then battled the fire in a “defensive attack,” during which they worked to control the fire by spraying water from outside the building, as it was too dangerous to be inside. The firefighters were able to control the fire later that morning.

According to the news release, damage estimates for the fire are $550,000 for the building and $123,000 in content damages at The Dusty Bookshelf building; $10,000 in building damages and $75,000 in content damages at Varsity Donuts; and $4,000 for building damages and $60,000 in content damages at Thread.

The fire shut down a section of Aggieville Thursday morning as cleanup of the aftermath began and officials from the Manhattan Fire Department and the Kansas Office of the State Fire Marshal, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, worked to trace the cause of the fire to floor finishing materials.

In a phone interview Thursday afternoon, Diane Meredith, owner of The Dusty Bookshelf, said the construction company remodeling the building applied a fresh coat of wood stain in the upstairs bathroom Wednesday night.

Meredith first bought the bookstore from her former bosses as a student at K-State in the 1980s, moving the Aggieville staple in 1991 to where it stood until Thursday morning. Meredith also owns Varsity Donuts and Thread, as well as Acme Gift.

According to a news release by the Manhattan Fire Department, The Dusty Bookshelf building is considered a “total loss.” However, the release said the two-story commercial building, which previously housed The Dusty Bookshelf, was under a building permit with the name of the new business listed as “Co-op.” The owners of the building, according to the release, are Sherilyn and Roger Bender of Sunrise Beach, Missouri.

No injuries have been reported. Oliver, The Dusty Bookshelf’s cat, as well as all the store’s books, are reported safe according to a Facebook post by The Dusty Bookshelf. The books and Oliver had previously been moved out of the building for the remodel.

Editor’s Note: Additional reporting provided by Kaitlyn Alanis and Alex Brase.

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I’m Rafael Garcia, co-editor-in-chief at the Collegian. I’m a junior in journalism, campus visit coordinator for the JMC Ambassadors, and the vice president of social events and communication for the Edgerley-Franklin Urban Leaders. I come from Emporia, Kansas, home of the Twinkie, world’s best tasting tap water and journalist William Allen White. I’m passionate about journalism because I love people and their stories, and I want to find and tell those stories here on campus. In my spare time, I’m a Chihuahua wrangler, doughnut enthusiast, Netflix watcher and racquetball player. Contact me at [email protected]