Morning fire and a fuel spill slow D.C. feds

Monday - 2/7/2011, 10:20am EST

WTOP's Adam Tuss reports

Click below to hear the report

Download mp3

The plume of smoke rose higher than the Washington Monument. (WTOP)

A fire broke out near the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington Monday. Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas says a building detached from the museum that contains the facility's cooling tower caught fire. She says it appears the fire started while a contractor was working in the mechanical building.

No smoke entered the main building where millions of artifacts and specimens are housed. The museum opened to visitors Monday shortly after its regular opening of 10 a.m.

D.C. Deputy Fire Chief Ken Crosswhite says the fire did not pose a risk to the museum. No injuries were reported. WTOP's Adam Tuss tells Federal News Radio traffic on Constitution Avenue downtown was "a problem" during the morning rush hour.

Meanwhile, a few blocks away, a tanker truck dumped part of its load of diesel fuel on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. A Secret Service spokesman said the fuel did not pose any danger.

Spokesman Max Milien said Monday the truck was leaving the White House grounds when it sprang a leak. A hazardous materials team from the District of Columbia arrived soon after and ensured the scene was safe.

Workers poured sand and gravel on the fuel to soak it up, then used brooms to collect the residue.

The spill took place ahead of a late-morning speech by President Barack Obama at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, across the avenue - and Lafayette Park - from the White House.