WASHINGTON: The US Capitol complex temporarily locked down on Monday during a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration after a fire in a homeless encampment roughly a mile away sent a plume of smoke into the air and caused security concerns. But law enforcement officials said there was no threat to the public and the fire was not believed to be a threat to the inauguration. Local firefighters put out the blaze quickly. The evacuation of some participants and the lockdown were ordered by the acting chief of Capitol Police in an abundance of caution, officials said.
Biden was not participating in the rehearsal, nor were other VIPs who will attend Wednesday’s ceremony. But the fast decision to lock down underscores the fear that has gripped Washington since the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol by pro-Trump rioters and prompted extraordinary measures ahead of the inauguration.
Armed protests planned for this past weekend around the US were mostly a bust, but anxiety is still skyrocketing.
Capitol police spokeswoman Eva Malecki said there were currently no fires on or within the campus. “Members and staff were advised to shelter in place while the incident is being investigated,” she said in a statement. The lockdown was lifted about an hour later.