Washington — A fire under a highway several blocks from the Capitol caused a brief lockdown of the complex and the evacuation of a rehearsal of Wednesday’s inauguration, a reflection of the heightened state of alert in the nation’s capital.
Capitol Police warned those in the Capitol to stay inside due to an “external security threat,” and shut off access to and from the building. A rehearsal on the West Front of the Capitol was evacuated, with media members told to return to nearby trailers.
Capitol Police said a fire under a highway several blocks south of the Capitol prompted the lockdown.
“In an abundance of caution following an external security threat under the bridge on I-295 at First and F Streets, SE, Acting Chief Pittman ordered a shutdown of the Capitol Complex. There are currently no fires on or within the Capitol campus,” Capitol Police said. “Members and staff were advised to shelter in place while the incident is being investigated.”
The U.S. Secret Service said the fire had been extinguished and there was “no threat to the public.”
The scare comes as thousands of troops are in Washington ahead of the inauguration, blocking off streets around the Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden’s swearing in.