From: Reuters
Published December 19, 2007 02:34 PM

Fire damages Cheney's ceremonial office

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A fire damaged Vice President Dick Cheney's ceremonial office in a building overlooking the White House on Wednesday and forced more than 1,000 government workers to evacuate.

Cheney was in the White House with President George W. Bush receiving their morning intelligence briefings when the blaze erupted and people were evacuated from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building safely, White House officials said.

Thick black smoke billowed from the second floor of the hulking granite structure, which is part of the White House compound and faces the West Wing of the presidential mansion.

Firefighters quickly brought the fire under control. The cause was being investigated.

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"It appears to be an electrical room or closet or a telephone bank," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Fire Department spokesman Alan Etter said there was no sign of a terrorist link. There have been numerous security scares since Washington was targeted in the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks.

After the fire was out, Bush and Cheney emerged and thanked firefighters beside a ladder truck outside the West Wing.

The fire broke out near Cheney's suite of ceremonial offices, which he uses to host dignitaries and large meetings.

Flames did not reach Cheney's office, but it sustained smoke and water damage, his spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said. He usually works inside the White House itself.

Smoke filled the building up to the fifth floor before firefighters put out the blaze, Perino said. Flame damage was being assessed, but appeared limited to just a few offices.

The building was constructed between 1871 and 1888. It also houses offices of the National Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget as well as some senior advisers.

(Reporting by Caren Bohan, Matt Spetalnick and Toby Zakaria, editing by David Alexander and Doina Chiacu)

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