The Massachusetts State House will be closed Wednesday “out of an abundance of caution” as the investigation continues into the cause of an apparent electrical fire Tuesday that forced the evacuation of the building, according to state officials.
“We’re grateful for the efforts of the Boston Fire Department, Mass State Police and DCR Rangers to ensure the safety of all officials, staff and visitors and are working diligently to reopen the building as quickly and safely as possible,” said Tammy Kraus, Superintendent of the State House.
Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll were among those who safely exited the building after the fire was reported at 2:12 p.m., State Police said.
As of 5 p.m., the fire had been extinguished by the Boston Fire Department, State Police said. Firefighters were escorting employees back into the building to retrieve their belongings, the agency said.
Boston Fire Commissioner Paul Burke told reporters outside the State House that high voltage wires that feed into a transformer in the basement began burning, causing the fire shortly after 2 p.m.
Burke said the location, the type of fire, and dangerous fumes in the basement prevented firefighters from quickly putting it out. “It was in a tunnel and the smoke and the quality of the air were a problem,” he said.
Burke said investigators would determine an exact cause, but suggested “overheated wires, probably” sparked it. The fire caused no structural damage to the building, Burke said, though there may be some smoke damage to rooms in the basement.
Burke said a fire alarm earlier in the day at the State House was likely unconnected to the fire.
Kraus said in a statement earlier Tuesday that the building was closed for the rest of Tuesday “due to ongoing concerns regarding elevated carbon monoxide levels.”
“We are grateful for the quick and coordinated action of the Boston Fire Department, Mass State Police and DCR Rangers in keeping our elected and appointed officials, staff and members of the public safe,” she said.
State Auditor Diana DiZoglio stood outside the State House on Derne Street during the evacuation, without her wallet and phone.
”This has never happened since I’ve been working on Beacon Hill over the course of the last 11 years,” said DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat who has served as a state senator and legislative aide. “We assumed it was either a fire drill or that somebody pulled the fire alarm.”
State Senator Jamie Eldridge tweeted that a committee hearing he had been chairing was interrupted by the fire.
“@TeamEldridgeMA is biding time at Capitol Coffee,” he wrote.
State House continues to be evacuated, noone is being allowed back in due to transformer fire in basement. @TeamEldridgeMA is biding time at Capitol Coffee. Speaking of evacuated, one of my favorite #TheWire @baltimoresun scenes @AoDespair https://t.co/ymC1Q4R8vY #mapoli #bospoli— Jamie Eldridge (@JamieEldridgeMA) July 18, 2023
State House, incl/ Joint Committee on Judiciary hearing I was co-chairing has been evacuated due to a real fire concern- a transformer in the back of the building is/was sparking. A few scenes, thank you @MassDCR Rangers, @MassStatePolice & @BostonFire for your assistance #mapoli pic.twitter.com/74UTHiYhNY— Jamie Eldridge (@JamieEldridgeMA) July 18, 2023
On Twitter, Boston Globe reporters posted photos of the response from fire officials.
It’s unclear if/when staff will be allowed back in the State House today. State Auditor Diana DiZoglio told reporters her staff is preparing to work remotely but some left building without their cell phones or keys. (This was actually the 2nd fire alarm in the building today.) pic.twitter.com/QYAZSdQy2v— Matt Stout (@MattPStout) July 18, 2023
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misattributed a quote from Superintendent of the House Tammy Kraus to Gov. Maura Healey. The Globe regrets the error. This story will be updated.
Samantha J. Gross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @samanthajgross. Matt Stout can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him @mattpstout. Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.