Fire at Capitol Power Plant prompts 2-hour evacuation

Plant employees had to vacate the century-old structure while a cooling tower blaze was extinguished

Workers wait outside the Capitol Power Plant which was evacuated due to a fire in a cooling tower on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A “contained fire” within a cooling tower at the Capitol Power Plant Monday caused a nearly two-hour evacuation at the century-old plant. 

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services worked to extinguish a blaze in the plant’s tower, which created enough smoke to be visible from the building’s roof. No injuries were reported.

An alert of the evacuation was announced at 10:56 a.m., and power plant employees were not allowed to re-enter the facility until about 12:50 p.m.,

Capitol Police and D.C. Fire remained on the scene after employees were allowed to re-enter. No cause of the blaze has yet been determined. 

The power plant is located a few blocks south of the Capitol. It is more than 100 years old, and provides steam and chilled water to nearly two dozen facilities on Capitol Hill, including the Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings.

The Capitol building and others serviced by the power plant did not lose hot water, heating or cooling systems. There are massive generators adjacent the Capitol which kick in to keep the complex operational during an outage at the power plant.

Capitol power plant workers surmised that while they were permitted to re-enter, areas affected by the fire and investigation may remain closed.



Roads around the power plant site are closed, including:

  • E Street between South Capitol Street and New Jersey Avenue SE
  • New Jersey Avenue between E and I Streets SE
  • Virginia Avenue between South Capitol Street and New Jersey Avenue SE

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