RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The roof of the old state Capitol caught
fire Wednesday as workers repaired the building, sending smoke
through the old House and Senate chambers and forcing the
evacuation of workers and visitors inside.
Authorities said there were no reports of injuries or extensive
damage to the 1840 Capitol building, which now houses the office 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 joints in the roof when wood and other
material underneath 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 about 9 square feet, while interior
damage was limited to the plaster ceiling in the State Geologist's
Office on the third floor, state officials said.
Between 10 and 15 employees in the Capitol and a similar number
of visitors were evacuated, Henderson said.
"We are so lucky that we have a good fire alarm," Henderson
said.
Firefighters removed smoldering sections of wood, and a fire
watch was scheduled through the night as a precaution, according to
Speros Fleggas, director of the State Construction Office.
Employees were expected back Thursday after the building aired out,
Fleggas said.
The state earlier this year 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. A
subcontractor, Century Slate, performed the roof work, Fleggas
said.
Such small fires are not unusual during this kind of soldering
work, Fleggas said.
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 its own building a block
away. The Capitol remains a popular tourist attraction in Raleigh
and included busts of former governors and an exact duplicate of a
statue of George Washington burned beyond repair in the 1831 fire.
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.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)