A fire broke out early yesterday in a basement room of the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, causing minor damage and sending smoke through the building's ventilation system.

The fire apparently began in a stack of papers and boxes that was left atop an electric stove that had not been turned off, according to FBI officials. Damage from the fire and smoke was estimated at less than $1,000.

It was the second time in a week that a fire occurred here in a federal building that does not have a sprinkler system installed throughout the premises.

A spectacular fire swept through the upper floors of the U.S. Postal Service headquarters at L'Enfant Plaza Monday night, causing an estimated $100 million in damage and sending 25 firefighters to the hospital.

D.C. fire officials said that the lack of a sprinkler system may have been a factor in the rapid spread of the fire. The District's fire code does not require that sprinklers be installed in government buildings.

Wesley M. Johnson, an FBI section chief in charge of facilities management and security, said yesterday that sprinklers have been installed in some areas of the Hoover Building, including the sub-basement, first floor and some of the special rooms and laboratories that contain sensitive electronic equipment.

"But it's not 100 percent sprinkled," he said.

Johnson said U.S. General Services Administration officials have discussed installing sprinklers throughout the 12-story building, but that currently there is no money in the budget for the work.

D.C. firefighters arrived at the FBI building at 5:18 a.m. in response to a report that smoke from the fire had reached the 10th floor. By then, however, members of the building's security force had put out the fire, according to FBI spokesman Tom Baker.