MSB evacuated, small fire broke out on 16th floor

Hundreds of city workers went home early today after a small 16th floor fire forced the evacuation of the Municipal Services Building, across from City Hall, at 15th Street and JFK Boulevard.

Mayor Nutter, speaking to anxious workers from a podium in front of the building, said it was too early to tell if they would be able to go to work tomorrow. Officials were expected soon to begin assessing damages, mostly from water that made stairways impassable. Elevators were inoperable because they were shut off.

Nutter did not say how the fire began, but one official said it was mostly contained to a storage closet on the 16th floor, where several conference and training rooms and a customer service area of the Human Resources Department are located.

Alarms were sounded at about 3:40 p.m., said Nutter, who walked into the building about 4 p.m., after it was evacuated. Nutter's deputy mayors and Managing Director Camille Barnett - who all work in the building - conferred with him in the lobby for some time. Four engine and two ladder companies were on scene. No one appeared to be injured.

Workers who needed essential items - keys, wallets and pocketbooks - were allowed back into the building at about 4:45 p.m. As for employees who did not need to return to their offices, Nutter said to cheers: "You are free to go."

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