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Community comes together after Mexia library set on fire

mexia gibbs library
Posted at 11:56 PM, Oct 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-07 06:41:26-04

MEXIA, TX — One week after a devastating fire destroyed roughly half of one Central Texas town's library, recovery has begun.

As well as the recovery, there is also a search for the suspect who may have set the fire on Saturday.

The grounds of the Gibbs Memorial library in Mexia looked a bit littered these days. Littered with the charred pages of books burned in a fire, which is now ruled arson.

"It was a tragic loss for the city. We're working closely with the library board," said Mexia City Councilman Butch Newhouse.

City and library leaders took quick action within a week to set the recovery wheels in motion.

"It was devastating. We didn't know at the time that somebody had set it on fire," said Kristin Green, whose home sits down the block from the library.

In a briefing from the investigative team, City Manager Eric Garretty learned investigators recovered forensic evidence from the library, evidence they believe will lead to an arrest.

Investigators will also interview neighbors to learn if they saw anything suspicious at the time of the fire.

Those neighbors are angry that someone took the safety from this "safe place."

"What do I think about the kind of person that would do that? Terrible, terrible person. I don't know how anybody could do anything like that," explained Green.

Firefighters lost half the building, but saved the other.

Books from the burned out and soggy east wing sit in a pile along the side of the building. They'll get thrown away.

What about other books that were wet?

Accepted practice in the library calls for drying out the books. Libraries will actually freeze the books to prevent the growth of mold. Later, they will thaw and dry them out. The process damages the book, but does not destroy the book.

Despite charred file cabinets sitting outside the building, none of the city's important historical or genealogy records were damaged.

Meanwhile, political leaders put a temporary site for repairs at Gibbs.

Repair estimates to reopen the library range from $500,000 to $750,000, most of it covered by insurance.

Meantime, businessman Hughes Dillard offered the former Dixie Furniture store for use as a library.

"That's really the spirit of our community. We've had our loss and we've had our share over the years, and each time people stepped up," said Newhouse.