The Washington Post

Firefighters face two-alarm blaze at McLean area high rise building

Fairfax County fire officials said a fire inside a McLean-area high-rise that forced authorities to evacuate the building and produced heavy smoke through the area Thursday night was caused by an electrical short.

Dan Schmidt, spokesman for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, said water that overflowed in the high-rise’s gutters short circuited a transformer in the building’s electrical room, causing the accidental fire.

Firefighters responded to the 7900 block of Westpark Drive, near I-495, where authorities found heavy smoke pouring from the basement of an office building under construction just after 8 p.m., said Deputy Fire Chief Michael Reilly, a spokesman. No injuries were reported, but 60 construction workers — and about 10 office employees — were evacuated from the 12-story building.

Schmidt said the building was being renovated, and the fire caused more than $50,000 worth of damage.

About 80 firefighters and rescue personnel contained the fire. But because electricity fueled the blaze, they were unable to immediately extinguish it until power could be cut to the building.

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Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.

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