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Fire Destroys Albany Bulb 'Library'

The small "library" at the Albany Bulb was destroyed by a fire of unknown origin about 6 a.m. today, Sunday.

An early morning fire consumed the small "library" at the Albany Bulb on Jan. 12, 2014. Photo credit: Amber Whitson
An early morning fire consumed the small "library" at the Albany Bulb on Jan. 12, 2014. Photo credit: Amber Whitson
An early morning fire today, Sunday, destroyed the small Albany Bulb "library," a collection of books in a makeshift, roofed structure under a tree.

The library belonged to the community of several dozen people who have been living illegally in tents and homemade shelters on the Bulb for a number of years.

The fire was reported to the Albany Fire Department about 6:15 a.m. and was put out in about half an hour with the help of three fire engines, said Albany Fire Capt. John Weitzel. No injuries were reported, he said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, Weitzel said. There was no sign that it was deliberately set, he said.

Albany Bulb resident Amber Whitson said she was awakened this morning by another Bulb dweller yelling in alarm.

"I woke to the sound of one of the residents yelling that the Library was on fire," she told Patch in an email. "I grabbed my shovel, threw on my boots and ran to the Library is fast as I could. When I got there, the library was already burnt to the ground."

She found a wet rug and started putting out a hot spot, and within minutes the fire department was on the scene, she said.

"We are grateful for the assistance of the personnel of the Albany Fire Department," Whitson said. "Although the residents prevented the fire from spreading, the whole tree that the library was built underneath might have gone up in flames, were it not for their efforts."

Whitson said the library had about 300-400 books and was built in 2006 by two Bulb residents, Jimbow the Hobo and Andy Kreamer, at what had been Jimbow the Hobo's campment.

A visit to the fire scene by Patch in the afternoon found a number of charred volumes scattered amid the ashes that covered the ground.

Bulb background

The Albany City Council decided last year to remove the encampments on the Bulb so that the property can be made into part of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park in line with the city's longterm plan for the Bulb.

The city erected a temporary, 30-bed homeless shelter in November next to the Bulb, which has remained largely unused. In cooperation with the Berkeley Food and Housing Project and the Solano Community Church, the city is also offering assistance to Bulb dwellers in finding alternative housing. 

The Albany Community Foundation and Albany resident Francesco Papalia are also coordinating efforts to help Bulb residents relocate.

For more information on the city's plan for the Albany Bulb and protests by opponents of the eviction, see our list of recent Patch articles and reader posts about the issue:

Published Jan. 12, 2014, 4:51 p.m., updated Jan. 13, 6:24 p.m.

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Amber Whitson January 23, 2014 at 10:44 AM
Gary, I appreciate the tone of your last comment. And, to that, I say: I spend plenty of time being criticized on Patch for what I CAN do... It hardly encourages one to develop or hone any skills that they may have.
doris January 23, 2014 at 11:31 AM
"Back to Bob, if he knew how embarrassed he should be, he MIGHT stop building." no, Amber, you're wrong.....if he knew that what he's doing is illegal and he will face the consequences of it, THEN he not only MIGHT stop building, he WOULD stop building. Hard to continue in jail. He simply takes advantage of our impotent police. Anywhere else, he's be run off......
Laney Russell January 23, 2014 at 12:26 PM
"Laney: Head-to-toes, I still suffer from: brain zaps (aka "discontinuation syndrome", mild spastic diplagia (a form of cerebral palsy), myoclonic seizures, perforated eardrums (barotrauma, from a plane ride when I was 8), pituitary microadenoma, chronic fatigue, obsessive compulsive tendencies, PTSD, hypervigilance, severe ADHD, naturally abnormally high levels of both epinephrine AND norepinephrine, TMJ, asthma, hypermobility, chronic dyspepsia, bilateral primary lymphedema (in my hands), chronic fingernail fungus, folliculitis, dormant community-based MRSA (although, I haven't had an infection in YEARS), back spasms and sciatica... And that's the ones that I can remember right now"-------Wow that's the longest list yet! Amazing how it just keeps growing. Don't worry about what you have "forgotten" as I am sure it will come to mind the next time you need to convince someone that you are too healthy to live in a lock box.
Laney Russell January 23, 2014 at 12:33 PM
"I spend plenty of time being criticized on Patch for what I CAN do... It hardly encourages one to develop or hone any skills that they may have."------ You are not criticized for what you can do, you are criticized for claiming that you are strong and independent and capable while simultaneously telling us that you are too weak to hold down a job and too disabled to move. People are criticizing your hypocrisy not your abilities. And that last sentence tells me you are intentionally chasing incompetence for the sake of punishing the people who are paying your bills and paying for your lawsuits and buying your cigarettes and being held hostage by your inner brat. You just admitted that you are being obstinate and uncooperative on purpose. Some of us knew this all along but it is nice to have confirmation straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak, so thanks for that.
dorthy manser January 23, 2014 at 01:42 PM
Sadly, I think Amber is performing the kind of "negotiations" she has performed many times, with many people. I don't think she is a bad person, but catering to her many needs seems rather pointless. Her posts and political activities suggest that she is highly competent at using the system for her own advantage. Certainly, she is intelligent and motivated, and, because she doesn't have to hold down a job or pay rent, she can devote all of her energies to getting what she wants from other people. She is, in other words, a perfect client for the homeless advocacy industry. Tireless, articulate, and utterly unwilling to make the compromises that most of us have to make to avoid being a drain on others. That being said, it is pretty impressive to see how effectively she can work the system. If she as mentally ill as she claims (and I have no reason to doubt her), her achievements are doubly impressive. It makes me wonder how much raw talent and potential are being wasted when we ignore the problems of homelessness and destitution.

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