Ambassador’s Washington residence catches fire

Kyodo

The Japanese ambassador’s official residence in Washington caught fire Friday evening, but Ambassador Ryozo Kato and other residence officials escaped unharmed.

The Japanese Embassy in Washington said the blaze, which may have been accidentally started by a construction worker, was quickly extinguished.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated, but there are no indications it was a terrorist attack, embassy officials said.

Shortly after 6 p.m., passersby saw smoke and flames coming from the roof of the residence, according to the officials. Firefighters had extinguished the blaze by 6:45 p.m.

Kato and about 10 officials were in the building when the fire broke out, but they evacuated to the residence parking lots, embassy officials said.

According to the Washington Fire Department, the fire started in a container on the roof that contained tar for waterproofing. The fire burned the container and the area around it. The roof is now being repaired.

“The construction workers finished their work for the day, and it appears that they left the burner on and the fire then spread naturally that way,” said Alan Etter, a fire department spokesman.

Japanese officials were initially concerned about terrorist attacks because Japan is supporting the U.S.-led war in Iraq.