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Another false fire alarm briefly empties Capitol

Fortuitously, the Salvation Army had an emergency relief trailer already set up for an exhibit.

For the second time in as many months, the Oregon State Capitol emptied out at midday on Tuesday when fire alarms sounded throughout the building.

TasteBuds at the Capitol, the cafe in the basement, was full of people ordering, making, eating or carrying out lunch just before 1 p.m. The House and Senate were adjourned or in recess.

Fortuitously, the Salvation Army had an emergency relief trailer already set up in front of the Capitol for an exhibit. Volunteers handed out donuts and a brass band struck up a tune.

The evacuation lasted only a few minutes before people were allowed back into the Capitol.

Dave Palmer, the Capitol's facility services manager, blamed "a fire sprinkler flow in the construction area" for the alarms going off. Construction work has been ongoing on the Capitol grounds for months, part of a larger improvement project.

The previous incident took place April 24, interrupting discussion of a bill on the House floor and leaving staffers, legislators, lobbyists, visitors and journalists alike wondering what was going on. The culprit turned out to be delivery vehicle that struck an overhead fire sprinkler in the underground parking garage, causing the alarms to sound.

While neither incident involved an actual fire, Palmer said the building was fully evacuated on both occasions before people were allowed to return to their offices, conference rooms and lunch tables.