Wednesday morning’s “Bookstore Inferno” has quickly built a following and has become a conversation point among students and faculty.The blaze, which a Fort Worth Fire Department official said was caused by a leftover, slow-burning fire from a workman’s torch, produced an estimated $1 million in damage that might result in the required demolition of the building.
The fire itself, however, has become a bigger interest to students rather than what will become of the black and beige mess of metal and ash left behind.
Since the fire, TCU students have created 11 different Facebook groups, including “I saw the TCU bookstore burn!!!” and “RIP TCU bookstore.”
The most popular group is “Bookstore Inferno” with more than 250 members.
Sally Glass, a senior psychology and philosophy major, said she watched the fire from her apartment porch on Cockrell Street for three hours.
After seeing flashing lights from her kitchen window, Glass went outside to find a student sitting on her porch watching the fire. After exchanging names, Glass offered “Perry” a beer, and the two watched the fire.
“It’s like watching a train wreck,” Glass said. “There’s some human fascination with destruction. It’s sort of beautiful.”
Glen Ellman, 48, a commercial photographer, has made a career capturing fire on film.
Ellman’s photograph of the TCU Bookstore bursting with flames made the front page of the “Fort Worth” section in Thursday’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Within minutes of arriving at the bookstore, Ellman said, he saw more than 300 people running up to watch the action.
“Most people that you run into have never seen a building burn,” Ellman said.
Ellman said he heard students cheer when the roof began to cave.
The TCU Bookstore “was a spectacular burn,” Ellman said. He added that the photographs he took would be some of his better pictures.
Doug George, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Central Arkansas, said the students at the fire acted under “collective behavior.”
“In certain circumstances, the normal way of doing things doesn’t quite fit,” George said. “A temporary society all of a sudden comes into existence.”
George said the students who share a bond through the bookstore fire are a temporary society, complete with their own set of rules and ideas of how to act.
In other words, in the same way car crash victims bond together through mutual experiences, those students who saw the fire share a common thread.
Christina Davis, a senior English and political science major, said that after leaving The University Pub on Wednesday morning, an initial group of 10 people quickly grew to a crowd of about 100. She added that as the fire grew bigger, the crowd’s excitement grew.
“It was a big mixer,” Davis said.