SWANS ISLAND — Lightning from an overnight thunderstorm is to blame for a fire that destroyed the local library in this island town, according to the local fire chief.
The blaze was reported by a nearby resident at 3:40 a.m., Swans Island Fire Chief Robert Gardner said Thursday morning. The building was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived a few minutes later, he said.
The fire destroyed the building, which besides housing the library’s book and multimedia collection also was used as a meeting place and was home to the collection of artifacts owned by the local historical society, according to the chief.
“It’s still smoking,” Gardner said Thursday when reached by cell phone at the fire scene. “This is totally gone.”
Candis Joyce, the library’s director, said the library contained more than 10,000 volumes, plus digital video disks, videotapes and other items. The historical items included records from local quarries, weather data, and ferry logs.
“It just goes on and on and on,” she said of the items lost in the fire. “We really need to get this back. It had become a community center.”
The two-story building, in the village of Atlantic, was the last remaining old community schoolhouse on the island and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, according to Joyce. It functioned as a school from 1903 until 1954, she said.
The building was insured, Joyce said, and already a fund to raise money for a new library has been opened at The First bank. She said checks could be made out to the Swans Island Library Fund.
Swans Island, about five miles off Mount Desert Island, is one of the few remote ocean islands in the state with a year-round population. It has approximately 350 residents in the winter and about 1,000 in the summer.