A fire early yesterday in the Capitol Hill offices of the National Republican Congressional Committee caused "hundreds of thousands of dollars" damage to its executive offices but did not affect committee records, a NRCC spokeswoman said.
The fire, which was discovered about 3 a.m., was confined to an office on the second floor of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Republican Center, 320 First St. SE. The NRCC rents space in the four-story, white brick building, which also houses the Republican National Committee headquarters.
"The preliminary investigation conducted by the [D.C. police] arson unit . . . indicates it may possibly have been an accidental electrical fire," police spokesman William White III said.
Sources said the fire, which was extinguished in about 20 minutes, may have started in a desk-top computer in the office. A NRCC source said that about 15 minutes before a smoke detector went off, signaling the fire, a security guard smelled something burning in the office but was unable to find the source.
White said the fire, which investigators had first called suspicious, apparently was not related to a bomb threat received by the RNC Friday.
The building was evacuated after the threat was received, but dogs that searched the building found nothing. Police sources said that dogs also searched the building after the fire but found no bombs or explosive residues.
NRCC spokeswoman Barbara Pardue said that fire damage was confined to three desks in the 30-by-30-foot executive offices of the NRCC. Pardue said the committee raises money and distributes campaign contributions to Republican House of Representative candidates and trains people to work in political campaigns.
She said water and smoke damage spread to adjoining offices, destroying 19 computer terminals and damaging other computer equipment, furnishings, file cabinets and other equipment, but that there was no damage to records, most of which are stored in computers located elsewhere.