WASHINGTON – A fire in an electrical closet near Vice President Dick Cheney’s ceremonial office forced the evacuation Wednesday of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House – and sparked Internet chatter speculating about nefarious activities in the vice-presidential suite.
The vice president was in the White House West Wing when the fire broke out around 9:15 a.m., White House officials said.
The fire was contained to the closet, but the elaborate floor of mahogany, white maple and cherry in the vice president’s office was under water, White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
Thick black smoke “fairly filled” the second through fifth floors, she said. It billowed from an open doorway and cast a pall across the White House north lawn.
Perino was conducting a briefing for reporters, undergoing questioning about the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of interrogation of suspected terrorists, when fire trucks arrived next door while smoke poured through a corridor of the Eisenhower building and, briefly, flames on the second floor could be seen.
The Web site democraticunderground.com lit up with comments and questions from readers: “Too many documents to shred,” said “nradisic” at 9:48 a.m.
“What records are being ‘cleaned up?’ ” asked “Botany,” two minutes later.
Casting skepticism on suggestions from the political left that the blaze was the equivalent of the 1933 Reichstag fire which Adolf Hitler used to extend Nazi control in Germany, Little Green Footballs, a conservative Web site, reported: “There was a fire in Dick Cheney’s office this morning, and as usual the leftist blogosphere is brimming over with lunatic ranting.”
Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, said she was unaware of any documents being destroyed. Nor, she said, was any historic artwork lost.