No one hurt, but building cleared; inquiry underway
PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF
A fire and possible explosion Monday afternoon at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum prompted a full-scale investigation by local, state, and federal authorities to determine whether the incidents were linked to the deadly Boston Marathon blasts.
The fire broke out shortly before 3 p.m. — around the same time as the Marathon explosions several miles away — in an HVAC system in a section of the complex opened in 2011 that houses offices, a classroom, and some archival material, said Rachel Flor, a library spokeswoman. Everyone evacuated the building in Dorchester safely and no injuries were reported, she said.
“There was a fire, and it’s still unclear how it began,” Flor told reporters. “We did hear something that sounded like an explosion.”
Throughout the afternoon, library officials emphasized the blaze appeared to a “mechanical fire.”
Thomas Putnam, the library’s director, told reporters around 4 p.m. that a bomb squad was coming in as a precautionary measure in light of the Marathon blasts.
Shortly afterward, Boston police and State Police cars swarmed the library parking lot, along with authorities from the US Secret Service and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
They ordered all employees and visitors off the property, as they conducted a full sweep for bombs.
Concern about a possible connection to the Back Bay explosions escalated in the afternoon when police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said during a televised press briefing there had been a possible explosion and a possible incendiary device at the library. That caused reporters to flock to the library.
But by evening, Davis appeared to back away from his earlier statement, saying only that authorities were investigating at the scene. “The preliminary investigation indicates the JFK incident may not have been an explosion. It may have been a fire,” Davis said.
The fire caused some damage to the exterior of the building. It blackened the area of what appeared to be a side entrance and the windows were shattered.
Inside, damage was caused mostly by smoke and water and not that much from the fire itself. “We don’t anticipate damage to the collections,” Putnam said.
James Benton, a doctoral student from Georgetown University who was doing research at the library, was in the cafeteria when the fire alarm went off. “The evacuation was very orderly,” he said. “It was not high drama.”
Once outside, he said he saw a couple of people trying to put out small flames with extinguishers.
But then the flames abruptly grew very large and the smoke turned from white to black. Benton compared the sudden escalation to the lighting of a barbecue grill.
“Suddenly, a big whoosh,” he said.
Authorities ordered scores of fishermen to return to shore after the owner of many of the boats didn’t account for the fish they caught.Continue reading »
Even while Al Franken’s politics are often mine, I’m uncomfortable with his defenders pointing at other people’s behavior to minimize his.Continue reading »
A sleek, relatively new vaping device called a “Juul” has school administrators sending warning e-mails home.Continue reading »
These schools are debunking a theory that serving large populations of English language learners is a recipe for failure.Continue reading »
If you’re looking to avoid the traffic jams over the Thanksgiving holiday (and who isn’t?) this data can help you plan your trip.Continue reading »
The 5-year-old service dog came into Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes’ lives after they were injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.Continue reading »
New electronic readers will allow passengers to use plastic fare cards, credit cards, and smartphones to board vehicles.Continue reading »
Monday marked the transit agency’s biggest spending day in three years.Continue reading »
The T on Monday will advance a sweeping proposal to remake a central component of the system that impacts nearly every rider: how we pay for rides.Continue reading »