Fire breaks out in offices next to White House
WASHINGTON — A fire at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building here Wednesday morning forced the evacuation of hundreds of government workers and surrounded the White House with fire trucks and ambulances.
Smoke billowed out of the building for nearly 30 minutes as fire crews smashed windows and pumped water into the offices. The office sits immediately west of the White House, and fire crews set up on the west lawn to battle the blaze.
There were no reports of serious injuries, D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter told The Associated Press. One man broke a fifth-floor window to escape from the smoke and had to be rescued from the ledge.
Workers said the fire began in an electrical closet adjacent to Vice President Dick Cheney’s second-floor ceremonial office, as electricians worked to get the room ready for a midmorning event.
The fire quickly spread into that room and other offices nearby as workers fled into Lafayette Square. Nearby 17th Street was blocked off to traffic, and tourists taking pictures of the presidential complex were ushered back several hundred feet.
In a statement to the press, White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said everyone in the building was evacuated safely.
The building was built between 1871 and 1888 for the State, War and Navy Departments, but today houses agencies such as the National Security Council, Office of Management and Budget, and other presidential offices.
Workers said the building has been undergoing renovations in recent years, but the area affected by the fire did not yet have a working sprinkler system.