About 100 shoppers and employes were evacuated from the downtown Woodward & Lothrop store yesterday afternoon after fire broke out in a buyer's office on the eighth floor, District fire officials reported.

The blaze caused about $15,000 damage before being extinguished by the store's sprinkler system, fire dispatcher Jeff Williams said. The blaze was "suspicious in origin" and is being investigated, he added.

District fire companies rushed 13 vehicles to 1025 F St. NW, Woodies' main facility, after a store official reported the fire. Trucks were on the scene at 1:33 p.m. and the fire was under control by 1:39 p.m., Williams said. "The sprinkler put out the fire, so that by the time we got there what we mostly had was a lot of smoke," he said.

"But without the sprinkler, it could have been like the L'Enfant Plaza fire," he said. The Oct. 15 L'Enfant Plaza fire devastated the U.S. Postal System's headquarters and caused an estimated $100 million in damage.

Williams said it is customary for the fire department to send several trucks, a rescue squad and other special equipment to the scene of any reported fire in a high-rise building.