The Blacktip Island Public Library burned Thursday night in what authorities are calling suspicious circumstances. The library, housed in a shed on property next to Eagle Ray Cove scuba resort, contained one of the Caribbean’s largest collection of scuba diving manuals, some in Latin and Koine Greek dating back to the Second Century C.E.
“There was plenty of fuel, what with all that parchment and papyrus,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “But there was nothing there to spark a flame. I would term that ‘suspicious.’
“There’s also security camera footage showing people watching the place burn. That’s suspicious as well.”
“It’s a tragedy,” librarian Edwin Chub said. “This was one of the few places folks from all walks of life could gather without having to buy a drink or stink of cigarettes. To think this was intentional really burns me up.”
“Whether an accident or vandalism, the place burned quickly,” IPC Marquette said. “It was done before Dermott could get two buckets of water on it, and the folks on video only had time for one beer.”
Local opinion differed on the fire’s cause.
“Business owners have eyed that land for years,” long-time resident Frank Maples said. “There were plans to put a clothing boutique there. I’m not pointing fingers, but there are people who benefited from this.”
Eagle Ray Cove Resort owner Rich Skerritt bristled at talk of arson.
“The bookworms can’t keep a fire extinguisher handy, it’s not my fault,” Skerritt said. “The real tragedy is some of those books hadn’t been colored in yet. One of those yahoos sitting around drinking beer probably flicked a cigarette butt in the wrong direction.”
Other locals remained unconvinced.
“The historic house that used to be on that property blew up in the middle of the night a few months back,” resident Reg Gurnard said. “The fire department said it was a gas leak, but there’s no natural gas on the island. Plus, Dermott pretty much is the fire department, and he’s half sauced most nights, so there’s no telling what happened, then or now.”
“We, as a community, will come together to make this better,” Eagle Ray Cove’s Skerritt said. “We can’t replace those old books, but we can give Chub and his library a fair price for the property, get him some nice, new books and set him up in a newish shed across the island.”
“We encourage anyone with information about the fire to contact us,” IPC Marquette said. “The security footage is so grainy, we’re having a hard time identifying bystanders. I’d like to say we’ll catch the arsonist, but I wouldn’t make book on it.”