Fact check: In the event of a fire, Yale library reduces oxygen levels in book stacks only

Posts are circulating on social media that claim that if there is a fire at one of the Yale University libraries, all of the oxygen is removed from the building killing everyone inside in order to protect the rare books. This claim is partly false: representatives for the library confirmed that fire suppressant gases, which reduce oxygen levels but are still safe for humans, would be released into the book stacks only.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The posts ( here  ,  here  ,  here ) show a screenshot of a tweet here   , with a photo of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. “Fun fact about this library: if a fire starts in the library, all the oxygen leaves the building killing all who are inside in order to protect the rare books,” it says

More footage from inside the library can be seen in a YouTube video shared by the library here .

Communications Director of the Beinecke Library Michael Morand ( here ) told Reuters via email: "Like scores of cultural heritage institutions, this library uses a clean agent fire suppression system that safe for humans." Clean agents are gases that supress the fire but are safe for humans ( ).

In an interview with Yale News in 2010, visible here , Stephen Jones, the head of access services at the Beinecke Library at the time, explained this system in more detail. He said: “They do lower the percentage of oxygen, but not enough to kill any librarians,” explaining that the fire safety system pumps a combination of the gases halon (which chemically disrupts combustion by breaking the chain reaction between the fuel, ignition and oxygen , ) and Inergen (which reduces oxygen concentration while still maintaining a breathable atmosphere , here ), into the book stacks to stop the combustion process and therefore the spread of the fire.

After the fire suppression system was renovated in 2016, ( here  , here )  Morland, told Yale Alumni Magazine: “Myths about oxygen vacuuming have been greatly overstated”. The article says the building is equipped to release a fire suppressant safe for humans but only into the stacks and once everyone has left ( here ).

The author of the original tweet corrected his previous statement in a follow up tweet that included the Yale News article, as seen here   .


Partly false. In the event of a fire at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, a fire suppressant gas, which reduces oxygen levels but is safe for humans, is released into the book stacks only.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here   .