Treasury officials inspected their historic Pennsylvania Avenue building Thursday to calculate how seriously a fire damaged the 150-year-old structure and when employees can safely return.
"We won't know until we see what the damage is," said Calvin Mitchell, spokesman for the Treasury Department, headquartered about 100 yards from the east portico of the White House.The building's roof caught fire Wednesday afternoon, forcing hun-dreds of government workers to evacuate at about 4:45 p.m. It took firefighters about 31/2 hours to bring the blaze under control, and they were on the scene into the morning putting out hot spots.
District of Columbia Fire Chief Otis J. Latin said Thursday most fire equipment was being removed from the scene, although two companies would remain to monitor the situation.
Latin also said the Environmental Protection Agency planned to investigate reports that some asbestos material may have been involved in the fire.
Until that assessment is complete, no one will be permitted in the building, said Norman Foote, a Treasury security official.
Latin said arson units from both the fire department and the Treasury's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating the cause of the fire, although officials suspect it was related to restoration work being done on the roof.