Local News

Minor Damage Reported At State Capitol Following Fire

Posted July 10, 2003 9:02 a.m. EDT

— The

state Capitol building

was evacuated Wednesday afternoon after welders working on the roof started a small fire.

Authorities said there were no reports of injuries or extensive damage to the 1840 Capitol building, which now houses the offices of Gov. Mike Easley. Easley was not in the building at the time of the fire, State Capitol Police Officer Charlie Twitty said.

Workers were soldering the copper when wood under the roof began to smolder, said Raleigh Fire Department Battalion Chief Tommie Styons said. The smoke entered the building through the ventilation system, according to authorities, prompting fire alarms to sound around 1:50 p.m.

"It was really smoky on the second floor," said Carol Henderson, the building administrator who was among those evacuated.

About a dozen fire and rescue vehicles arrived at the scene. Firefighters climbed scaffolding in 90-degree heat to get to the roof and used fire extinguishers to douse the fire within five minutes, Styons said.

The fire was contained to "a very small area," Styons said.

Between 10 and 15 employees in the Capitol and a similar number of visitors were evacuated, Henderson said. Workers had not returned to the building late Wednesday afternoon.

"We are so lucky that we have a good fire alarm," Henderson said.

The State Construction Office had hired Polovick Construction Co. of Raleigh to make repairs to the Greek Revival-style building after the dome began to leak, causing falling plaster and water stains on walls. Portions of the building have been closed to tours.

Such small fires are not unusual during this kind of soldering work, said Speros Fleggas, the office director.

The original wooden Capitol building burned to the ground in 1831 as workers melted cracks on a new metal roof, Henderson said. The current building, with exterior stone walls, housed the Legislature until 1963, when it moved to their own building a block away. The building is now a popular tourist attraction in Raleigh.

Henderson said the wood in the state Capitol building was treated with turpentine and is highly flammable.

"This is a much happier ending," Henderson said.