Dartmouth bookstore poses fire risk for having too many books

The owner of Atlantic Canada's largest used bookstore has so much inventory, he's run afoul of the provincial fire marshal. In November, fire prevention officer Darrell Hartling ordered John Doull, owner of Doull's Books in Dartmouth, to make a number of changes to bring the store up to code.

Owner of Doull's Books asking utility and review board for more time to get his store up to code

John Doull says he needs longer than 60 days to reorganize the thousands of books in his shop. (Pat Callaghan/CBC )

The owner of Atlantic Canada's largest used bookstore has so much inventory, he's run afoul of the provincial fire marshal.

In November, fire prevention officer Darrell Hartling ordered John Doull, owner of Doull's Books in Dartmouth, to make a number of changes to bring the store up to code.

Among them: clear the aisles and stairwells of books, stop using extension cords as permanent wiring as well as other orders with which Doull complied.

But one order remains outstanding.

Thousands of books

Doull has thousands and thousands of books stacked in 50 shelves inside his store at 122 Main Street.

On his website, Doull writes that he has "the 'gift of acquisition' and thus the piles of extras tend to obscure the organization, especially for the cursory customers."

Most of the shelves in his shop stand as high as the ceiling, which Hartling said is against code.

Stacks of books can be seen through the bookstore's window. (Pat Callaghan/CBC )

Without one-metre clearance from the ceiling to the top of the book shelves, sprinklers are ineffective. Firefighters would be unable to spray water over the tops of the stacks, said Hartling.

Not enough time to move books

"There's way too much storage," Hartling said Monday at a hearing of the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. "Excessive storage."

Doull is appealing the order to the review board — not because he believes the books pose no fire hazard — but rather because he said Hartling gave him too little time to move the books and shelves.

Doull has asked the board to grant him until July 4 to meet the compliance order. But Hartling testified the extension isn't necessary.

"It doesn't take forever to remove books," he said at the hearing. 

Lawyers for the fire marshal's office argued Doull has made no effort to meet them even halfway. 

60 days to get up to code

Doull said he's about to renovate his store to bring it under compliance and he needs until summer to complete the work. But Hartling said given the urgency, the request is unreasonable.

"He could comply and still do his renovations afterward," Hartling said.

Hartling said 60 days is a pretty standard time frame that any business would have to abide by in order to bring their operation up to code.

'You just eyeballed it'

Doull's lawyer, Fergus Ford, argued Hartling's three-month window to get the job done was made with no actual analysis.

"You just eyeballed it and sized it up," he said at the hearing.

The board has reserved its decision.