Thursday, December 20, 2007
Story of the Day-Fire Burns at Old Executive Office Building
Fire at Executive Office Building Washington
The Old Executive Office Building (OEOB), now officially known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building (and formerly as the State, War, and Navy Building) is a federal office building next to the White House, on 17th Street, N.W., between Pennsylvania Avenue and New York Avenue, in Washington, D.C.
According to the National Register of Historic Places, the Old Executive Office Building, a National Historic Landmark, was built between 1871 and 1888. Designed by Alfred B. Mullett, Supervising Architect, in the French Second Empire-style, the building housed the Departments of State, War, and Navy. Much of the interior was designed by Richard von Ezdorf using fireproof cast-iron structural and decorative elements. The building gradually became seen as inefficient and was nearly demolished in 1957. Since 1981, major renovations have been performed, including the development of a comprehensive preservation program and the formulation of a master plan for the building's continued adaptive use. The building continues to house various agencies that compose the President's Executive Office, such as the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Security Council. However, its predominant purpose is that of the Vice President's Ceremonial Office, used mainly for special meetings and press conferences.
Many celebrated national figures have participated in the historical events that have taken place within the Old Executive Office Building's granite walls. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush all had offices in this building before becoming President. It has housed 16 Secretaries of the Navy, 21 Secretaries of War, and 24 Secretaries of State. Winston Churchill once walked its corridors and Japanese emissaries met there with Secretary of State Cordell Hull after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. President Herbert Hoover occupied the Secretary of the Navy's office for a few months following a fire in the Oval Office on Christmas Eve, 1929. In recent history, Richard Nixon had a private office there during his presidency. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first in a succession of Vice Presidents to the present day that have had offices in the building. A small fire on December 19, 2007 damaged the offices of the vice-president.
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Executive Building - Cheney's office fire
Fire Breaks Out at Eisenhower Executive Office Building Near White House
WASHINGTON — Thick smoke hovered over the nation's capitol Wednesday after a fire broke out on the White House compound in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
The blaze started at about 9:30 a.m. near the ceremonial office of Vice President Dick Cheney on the second floor of the building. The vice president was across the street in his office in the West Wing of the White House at the time.
The Secret Service is disputing reports that they kept firefighters from entering the building, saying that they allowed access to firefighters but the agency maintained security.
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Cheney's ceremonial offices suffered massive water and smoke damage, and another staff member's office was damaged by fire. No one was hurt in the blaze.
Secret Service spokesman Darrin Blackford said the building was evacuated as a precaution. District of Columbia firefighters poured water on the flames and moved furniture from the building onto a balcony.
Secret Service spokesman Darrin Blackford said the Old Executive Office building was evacuated as a precaution. "Everyone has been evacuated safely," White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said. District of Columbia firefighters poured water on the blaze and moved furniture onto a balcony.
The Executive Office Building, a commanding structure with a granite, slate and cast iron exterior at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street, houses the Office of Management and Budget and staff of the National Security Council and other agencies.
Originally built for the State, War and Navy Departments between 1871 and 1888, the building was renamed in honor of President Dwight Eisenhower during the Clinton administration.
Fire breaks out near the White House
A Short History of White House Fires
Putting aside the bizarre incidents - like the time an FBI informant set himself on fire in front of the White House in 2004 or the time a small plane crashed into the White House in 1994 - regular, workaday fires like the one that happened this morning in Vice President Dick Cheney's ceremonial suite at the Old Executive Office are not actually all that common on the White House grounds. Given the 27 wood-burning fireplaces, high volume of bureaucratic traffic and constant maintenance and refurbishing, it is not too bad a record.
In modern times, fires break out roughly two times every decade at the White House. The last real bonfire was way back in 1929 on Christmas Eve, when the West Wing was gutted by a massive conflagration. President Herbert Hoover had to leave his Christmas party to oversee the removal of important papers from the Oval Office. (But the Marine Band played on, and the First lady kept the party going.) The doozy, of course, was in 1814, when the invading Brits set the White House on fire. (Dolley Madison had to smuggle out the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington before the British troops got to the mansion.) Only the outside walls remained standing - and that was probably because of a timely thunderstorm that helped contain the fire. Scorch marks from that blaze are still apparent in some walls in the White House.
More recently, a small fire broke out on the exterior of the East Wing in 2000. That one started the way most White House fires start - as workers were painting or removing paint or otherwise refurbishing some corner of the place. In 1995, a tour bus burst into flames on Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the White House. The heat peeled the paint at Blair House, the presidential guesthouse. In the 1980s, there was a string of fire and smoke incidents under President Ronald Reagan, including one in the mess. But none did much damage.
Why haven't there been more fires at the White House? A serious fire detection system was installed in 1965. And it's very sensitive. When a sensor detects smoke, a warning goes off in the Secret Service's control center in the White House. The D.C. Fire Department is quickly called, and at least five engines and two ladder trucks respond from any one of several surrounding stations.(A unit is on hand anytime a helicopter takes off or lands at the White House.)
The response is slowed - slightly - by the Secret Service, which checks the ID of all the firefighters and then escorts them to the smoke. But the two organizations have fairly good relations these days, and the delay is usually only a minute or two. The best fire prevention system, though, is probably the security - and the workaholics. "If you had somebody walking through your house every floor, every day, you wouldn't have any problems either," says Walter Gold, executive director of the DC Fire Department Museum who responded in his volunteer capacity to the fire at the White House today. "It wasn't much of a fire," he says.
Fire out at building next to White House
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Firefighters quickly doused a two-alarm fire Wednesday in the historic Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses the vice president's ceremonial offices and the majority of the White House staff.
Firefighting crews used axes to break windows on the third floor of the ornate building shortly after the two-alarm blaze broke out after 9 a.m.
The fire started near the vice presidential offices, CNN's Kathleen Koch reported.
At its peak, heavy black smoke streamed from the building. Video Watch smoke pouring from building »
Within an hour, smoke had stopped pouring from the building and was replaced by a fine mist of water, which the firefighters used to ventilate the building until they could get fans set up.
Vice President Dick Cheney's working offices are in the West Wing of the White House, where he was at the time of the fire.
The White House is adjacent to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. See how close building is to the White House »
There were no reports of injuries from the blaze, which appeared to be confined to the third floor, said D.C. Fire Department spokesman Alan Etter. Etter said the blaze appeared to have started in an electrical closet or a telephone bank.
"We have this under control," he said, adding that the building was evacuated.
The Secret Service and a number of other agencies were on scene, as were 15 fire trucks.
The building houses nearly all of the White House staff, including White House speechwriters, White House communications, senior staff from the Office of Management and Budget and the National Security Council.
It was constructed between 1871 and 1888 and has been undergoing renovations. Also called the Old Executive Office Building, the massive structure was originally built for the State, War and Navy Departments and is an example of the French Second Empire style of architecture, according to a government Web site.
The building is the site of a number of events, including ceremonial signings, news conferences and photo opportunities.
It was designed by Alfred Mullett, the supervising architect of the Treasury Department, and its exterior is composed of granite, slate and cast iron.