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Posted at 5:37 PM ET, 01/12/2011

Library of Congress building gets all-clear

By Ben Pershing and Paul Duggan

Update, 5:35 p.m.: Jennifer Gavin, a Library of Congress spokeswoman, says the Madison Building was declared safe to reoccupy at 4:48 p.m. The cause of the smoke and a burning odor was determined to be a mechanical failure that sent smoke into the ventilation system, she said.

Original post: The Madison Building of the Library of Congress was partially evacuated Wednesday afternoon after smoke was spotted in the building and a fire alarm was triggered.

As of 4:20 p.m., Independence Avenue SE was closed to traffic between First and Second streets SE, with several fire trucks, police cars and ambulances standing by. Library employees were huddled on the sidewalks in the cold.

"There was some smoke detected on the sixth floor billowing out," said Robert Dizard Jr., the library's chief of staff.

Authorities evacuated some people from the building and ordered others to "shelter in place" while firefighters tried to identify the source of the light smoke and "a burning odor," a D.C. fire department spokesman said.

Spokesman Peter Piringer said no fire has been found in the building at 101 Independence Ave. SE. He said employees called for help about 4 p.m. after noticing light smoke on the sixth floor. He said they also "smelled something burning" on other floors.

Piringer said firefighters think the problem might be related to a malfunction of the building's extensive heating system.

Dizard said much of the building's mechanical infrastructure is on the seventh floor and that the smoke may have come from a motor. He said that fire officials and library officials did not think it was a large or serious incident, but he said that it could take an hour before the situation was resolved. He said evacuated workers from the Madison building were being told to go to other buildings in the meantime.

This post has been updated.

By Ben Pershing and Paul Duggan  | January 12, 2011; 5:37 PM ET
Categories:  Crime and Public Safety, DC  
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The "all clear" for reentry into the Madison Building was issued several minutes ago. The smoke was traced to an air handler in the ventilation system. A light smell of smoke lingers, but everything is back to normal now.

Matt Raymond
Director of Communications
Library of Congress

Posted by: mattr1970 | January 12, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

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