Michigan Capitol evacuated after electrical fire
Lansing — A small electrical fire broke out early Friday morning inside the Michigan Capitol, forcing evacuation and injuring a staffer who was carried out on a stretcher due to smoke inhalation.
Director of Facility Operations Rob Blackshaw said the 138-year-old building would be closed for the remainder of the day as electrical contractors investigate the cause of the fire and crews survey the damage.
“We haven’t identified the source, so we do take it very seriously,” Blackshaw said. “Public safety and the safety of our people is No. 1.”
Capitol alarms “went off full blown” around 8:50 a.m., Blackshaw told reporters outside the building. Crews discovered what he described as a small fire in an electrical closet in the south wing of the first floor.
About 30 to 40 people were evacuated from the building as the Lansing Fire Department arrived on the scene. The injured Capitol Facilities worker was carried out on a stretcher around 9:30 a.m., coughing into a paper towel as first responders loaded him into an ambulance.
“He inhaled a little bit of smoke when he was dispatching to help identify the area where the alarms were going off,” Blackshaw said.
There were not believed to be any additional injuries. Police eventually escorted staff back into the building to retrieve supplies they left behind upon evacuation. Capitol tour guides called school groups to cancel and reschedule planned visits.
“Obviously the fire or whatever caused that alarm is under control,” said Michigan State Police Lieutenant Kyle Bowman. “There’s no smoke or fire at all at this point.”
Blackshaw told reporters the fire appeared unrelated to construction work happening outside the Capitol, where crews are preparing a major project involving a geothermal field and overhaul of the building’s electrical system.
He said the building’s alarm system triggered an emergency response that limited the amount of smoke that flowed through the hallways, which are lined with paintings and other decorative elements.
“We don’t know the extent of the damage as of yet,” Blackshaw said.
Staffers allowed back into the building to retrieve paperwork or other supplies later Friday morning said the smoke had largely dissipated.
“The building will persevere,” said Fred Schaible, chief of staff to state Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell. “The building will stand.”