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No Injuries in Capitol Fire

Aired June 28, 2002 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We are trying to get more information now on that fire taking place in the nation's capital in the U.S. Capitol Building.

On the telephone with us now is Alan Etter, a spokesperson for D.C. Fire Department.

Thanks for joining us, Alan. All we know is that an awful lot of people were evacuated. Now, you gave us a better explanation as to why this fire started and where it is in the building.

ALAN ETTER, SPOKESMAN, D.C. FIRE DEPARTMENT: Yes, I'll tell you what happened.

We have an electrical motor on the fourth floor. And there's some electrical malfunction of the motor. It grounded out, produced a whole lot of smoke. In fact, there was very little fire, a lot of smoke. The fire department responded very quickly, very responsibly, assessed the situation.

Now, the building is evacuated. Capitol proper, House and Senate side are all evacuated. And the evacuation remains in effect. I expect, as soon as we get the smoke cleared out, that they should be able to get back in the building within 30, 45 minutes or so.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And so, are you able to give us an idea whether there was any damage caused from this malfunction?

ETTER: Well, certainly the electrical motor which malfunctioned is -- having not seen it, I could not tell you about the kind of damage. But, certainly, I would expect some damage there. There is going to be a little smoke damage. I would expect some smoke damage. But, luckily, nobody was hurt here. And operation should return to normal in just a few minutes.

WHITFIELD: So, it seems as though your evacuation took place, smooth sailing. You said there were no injuries as a result of the evacuation. About how many people did you have to move out of that building? And discuss with me the difficulties of trying to get that carried out.

ETTER: Well, when we respond to a federal building like this, we respond hand in hand with U.S. Capitol Police. They are the ones who really coordinate an evacuation. Things went very smoothly here, a seamless operation between fire, EMS Department, and the U.S. Capitol Police. I really can't give you a number of individuals who had to be evacuated for this, but scores of people certainly are around right now, like I said. In fact, we have units picking up and leaving the scene right now. So I would expect things to get right back to normal within a half-an-hour.

WHITFIELD: Wow, that's pretty speedy, isn't it?

ETTER: We aim to please.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks very much. We're glad it doesn't appear to be any more severe than that. Alan Etter, spokesperson for the D.C. Fire Department, thank you very much.

Among those who were inside the U.S. Capitol Building, our very own Kate Snow, along with a number of our other CNN staffers.

Kate, give me an idea as to what that evacuation was like for you, while it seems as though, in about 30 minutes, according to the spokesperson, you will be able to reenter the building.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's good news, Fredricka.

As we have been reporting, smoke was seen up on the fourth floor of the Capitol Building. And the stories that I have heard jive with what you just heard from the spokesman, which is that an employee up on the fourth floor -- which is just under the dome of the U.S. Capitol. It's sort of a floor they created fairly recently. I believe it was in the '60s they added that floor on.

An employee in that area smelled smoke. It was near the Policy Office, one of the offices used by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Republican from Illinois. That person called the Capitol Hill Police. The police thought they smelled smoke, too. And then they thought they might hear something behind a door. Apparently, they thought they might have heard flames or fire of some sort, something going wrong. So, they pulled the fire alarm.

And that's when we all, everyone who was in the building, heard an alarm going off. It's not a voice alarm. It's just a very loud buzz, like you would have at a school fire alarm.

We have all been taught now, since September 11, Fredricka, how to get out of the building. We have a fairly orderly process. It was a very orderly evacuation. And my photographer tells me that some people initially were running out of the building. But when I was coming out, people were walking very calmly, fast, but calmly.

You are looking at a group of people right outside, right below me. And I just want to point out, these folks are in groups on purpose, because the plan, after September 11, was drawn up that people would come out of the building and go to a designated spot, so that managers would be able to count all of those folks and make sure that everyone has gotten out of the building. So, Fredricka, this is proving that the system that they developed after September 11 is working -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, very good. Thank you very much, Kate Snow, from Capitol Hill.

And, as you just heard from the spokesperson, no one was injured in what appears to be a faulty -- a malfunction with a motor on that fourth floor. And so far so good. In about 30 minutes, people will be able to return to the U.S. Capitol Building in the nation's capital.

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