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Crews Respond To Emergency At City Landmark

Fire Reported At RTPI

City fire crews responded to a fire alarm at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute on Curtis Street. Areas of the facility sustained “minimal” water damage, an institute official said. P-J photo by Cameron Hurst

A fire that broke out on Thursday morning at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute was contained quickly and damage, according to an institute official, is “little.”

Firefighters from the Jamestown Fire Department were called to the 311 Curtis St. property around 10:20 a.m. for a fire alarm. The building was evacuated, and when firefighters arrived, smoke was located on the second floor.

The fire was reported out around 10:35 a.m., with crews looking for extension. The property’s sprinkler system went off as a result of the fire. Firefighters later requested tarps to cover items inside.

“The fire was contained to a pretty small area of the building,” battalion chief Brian Achterberg said. “The fire was put out by the sprinkler system for the most part and that did what it did, but when the sprinklers turned on it did cause some water damage.”

The institute’s chief executive officer Arthur Pearson said the cause of the fire “appears to have been an electrical malfunction in the attic where the fire was contained.”

“Most importantly, no one was hurt,” he said. “There were no visitors in the building and all staff exited safely in response to the fire alarm. Early indications are that there is little if any structural damage from the fire.”

Achterberg said that fire crews worked “hand-in-hand” with Jamestown Community College maintenance staff and Pearson “to salvage as many things as possible.”

“We immediately started, once we knew the fire was controlled, we were able to work with maintenance to shut off the sprinkler system,” he said. “That ceased and we began to salvage operations tarping everything we could and containing the water damage to as small a place and possible.”

Pearson said that effort appeared successful.

“The museum store suffered the most water damage, with some water damage to the rooms where the collection is stored,” he said. “There was minimal impact on the content of the collection.”

He said that some of the collection items have been moved to safe, alternative spaces within the museum, “pending cleanup and repairs to the collection rooms.”

Off-duty firefighters were summoned to the scene, along with fire investigators. That investigation, Achterberg said, had yet to be completed and no cause has been determined at this time.

“No one got hurt and a lot of stuff was saved,” he added. “Those are super people with the college as well as the maintenance staff. We all worked hand-in-hand. It was very efficient and we were able to save as much stuff as possible and it really did affect a small percentage of the whole building.”

“The board and staff of RTPI would like to thank the Jamestown Fire Department for their quick and expert help,” Pearson said. “Thanks, too, to the staff of JCC who helped to manage the situation and help with cleanup.”

Founded in 1984 and opened in 1993, the institute’s “mission is to honor and continue the work of Roger Tory Peterson,” the famed naturalist and illustrator born in Jamestown, “to foster understanding, appreciation and protection of the natural world.”

Pearson said that the institute will be closed through the end of the year. Updates will be available on its website at rtpi.org.

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