Fire damages state Capitol

Fire damages state Capitol »Play Video

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A fire broke out early Saturday at the Oregon state Capitol, leaving the building with smoke, water and fire damage, including to the governor's ceremonial office and the offices of some of his high-ranking staff members.

The fire was reported by Willamette University students living across the street at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, and was put out in about 20 minutes, said Capt. Calvin Curths of Oregon State Police. Five janitors working inside the building exited safely after being alerted by a fire alarm.

Police said late Saturday that a preliminary investigation indicates the fire was not intentionally set. Extensive renovation work was being done on the Capitol this year, much of it in the area where the fire started.

The Oregon State Capitol burned down twice before, most recently in 1935.

"We were doing some work to really get the old girl fixed up and now this happens," said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. "But Oregon has bounced back from fires at our Capitol twice before and we will fix her up again and restore her to her full glory."

Most of building, which was added to the National Registry of Historic Buildings in 1988, escaped the blaze. Besides offices on the second floor, other spots damaged were several first-floor hearing rooms and a third-floor room above the governor's office. Damage estimates have yet to released.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Ted Kulongoski said the fire will force 19 people who work in the governor's second-floor offices to be moved elsewhere for one to three weeks. She said the offices of chief of staff Chip Terhune and deputy chief of staff Tim Nesbitt were damaged.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)