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Man Arrested in Downtown Library Fire

February 28, 1987

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A suspect has been arrested for investigation into the $22 million fire at the landmark Central Library that damaged or destroyed more than 700,000 books, authorities said.

Harry Peak, 28, was arrested Friday in Hollywood after arson investigators questioned him about the April blaze, said Fire Department Capt. Tony DiDomenico.

″He was a very good match for the composite (drawing) distributed in the media,″ DiDomenico said.

Peak was booked for investigation of arson of a structure and was ordered held in lieu of $250,000, DiDomenico said.

The arrest was made based on the more than 400 telephone tips received by the Fire Department, said spokesman Jim Wells. He could not give any details about tips that led to Peak.

A $10,000 reward was offered by the City Council and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist.

The April 29 blaze burned the northwest stacks at the building, causing $22 million in damage. A second arson-caused fire Sept. 3 damaged the previously untouched east wing and caused another $1.5 million damage.

Each fire was started by someone using combustible material, such as paper, already in the library rather than bringing in something flammable, authorities said.

Library officials had been planning a $144 million renovation of the historic Byzantine-style Central Library when the arsonist struck.

The building, one of downtown’s largest before the advent of skyscrapers, was designed by architect Bertram Grosvenor Goohue. It was dedicated in 1926 and is listed on the national register of historic places.

The building has been closed since the fires, and library officials are searching for a new location.

The fire was the largest in a library in terms of books lost and the number of books at risk, former Fire Chief Don Manning said after the blaze.

″The fire was so intense that it just blew apart the concrete,″ Manning said, estimating temperatures inside the structure reached 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

More than $6 million has been raised in a ″Save the Books″ campaign, which has a $10 million goal for replacing books and materials destroyed in the fire.

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