The Agriculture Department’s South Building is seen here on Dec. 20, 2011, when emergency personnel responded to a Metro train incident in the station below the building. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

A small fire in the USDA’s South Building occurred during routine maintenance early Monday, according to department spokesman Justin DeJong. Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, but Pepco cut power to the facility.

“It smelled like when you keep the gas tank on a gas grill. Not quite like rotten eggs. You could smell something in the air,” said a USDA employee who was sent home Monday morning.

The South Building and the James L. Whitten Building house the offices of thousands of department employees, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

All other USDA employees in the Washington region must report to work as scheduled, DeJong said.

The Reporters Building is also closed Monday.

Workers may call 1-877-873-2720 for status updates throughout Monday.

Timothy R. Smith contributed to this report

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