Capitol lockdown lifted: Inauguration rehearsal participants briefly evacuated after fire in homeless camp

U.S.

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The U.S. Capitol complex temporarily locked down Monday during a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration after a fire in a homeless encampment about a mile away sent a plume of smoke into the air and caused security concerns.

The false alarm briefly interrupted the rehearsal for Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony, a quadrennial exercise in which stand-ins take the roles of Biden and other VIPs and the U.S. Marine Corps Band goes through its paces, including practicing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for Wednesday’s performance by Lady Gaga. Rehearsal resumed not long afterward, accompanied by frequent passes by a helicopter patrolling the skies over the Capitol.

The evacuation of some participants and the lockdown were ordered by the acting chief of Capitol Police in an abundance of caution, officials said. District of Columbia firefighters responded and put out the fire.

“Public safety and law enforcement responded to a small fire in the area of 1st and F streets SE, Washington, D.C. that has been extinguished,” the U.S. Secret Service said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution the U.S. Capitol complex was temporarily shutdown. There is no threat to the public.”

Biden was not participating in the rehearsal.

People involved in the rehearsal said security officials yelled “this is not a drill.”

The Capitol complex and surrounding areas have been locked down after a riot there Jan. 6.

DC Fire and EMS tweeted that the fire “involved a homeless tent beneath freeway. #DCsBravest quickly extinguished fire. Occupant indicated she was using propane, which may explain report of ‘explosion.’ 1 individual with non life threatening injury.”

Firefighters were called to the homeless encampment shortly before 10:15 a.m., where a woman who lived there had a portable heater with a flammable gas tank, fire department spokesman Vito Maggiolo said. The woman, who was injured but declined medical treatment, told firefighters that the flames spread quickly and her possessions were burned. The fire was extinguished almost immediately after firefighters arrived.

Participants were ushered from the West Front of the Capitol. Those who had gathered for a walk-through, including a military band, were directed to head indoors and moved in the direction of a secure location inside the Capitol complex.

The lockdown was lifted after an hour.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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