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Displaced Pentagon Workers Return After Fire

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2006 – Some 3,000 workers were back in the Pentagon today after a fire yesterday morning displaced them, a Defense Department spokesman said.

No one was injured in the fire, which began in the kitchen of the third-floor Executive Dining Room, spreading to the air-duct system. All five floors in Corridors 1, 9, and 10 were evacuated, the spokesman said.

The fire caused extensive smoke damage to Corridor 10 on the fourth and fifth floors, and lower floors were damaged by water leaking down from the affected area, the spokesman said. Damage from the three-alarm fire was estimated at $200,000.

Some 80 firefighters from Arlington County, the civilian jurisdiction in which the Pentagon is located, responded to the blaze. After extinguishing it, they knocked down walls to ensure ducts were clear, the spokesman said. The affected area was in an older section of the building and contained asbestos, so Pentagon safety and health officers had to assess the risk before allowing workers back in, he said.

Repairs to the damaged area began this morning. The entire area, except the Executive Dining Room and two rooms above it on the fourth floor are fit for reoccupation, according to information from the Pentagon Building Management Office. All building systems, except the exhaust fan that had the fire and an adjacent fan that serves the Executive Dining Room, are operating properly, officials said.

The 63-year-old structure is undergoing a $1 billion, multiyear renovation. The project started in the early 1990s and involves a complete overhaul of the interior of the Defense Department headquarters.

The Pentagon renovation project is divided into five wedges. Wedge 1 was almost complete when a terrorist-hijacked commercial airliner slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. The plane struck that section, so it had to be rebuilt while construction continued on Wedge 2, which was completed in December 2005.

Work on Wedge 3 is should be completed in October 2007, officials said. After that, Wedges 4 and 5 will be renovated, and the entire project is expected to be completed by December 2010.

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