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FIRE AT CITY HALL AROUSES SUSPICION

A suspicious fire in a City Hall storage room Monday afternoon caused an estimated $10,000 in damage and chased several-hundred office workers from the 25-story building.

No one was reported injured.

Firefighters said the fire broke out about 2:30 p.m. in a storage area for records of the Human Resources Department, between the 21st and 22nd floors of the 60-year-old landmark. The blaze was declared under control 15 minutes later.

The fire was ruled suspicious by Fire Investigators James O'Neill and Kenneth Skinner, who sorted through the charred remains of cardboard boxes containing files. The fire started among those boxes, they said. The room is usually locked but was found unlocked, they added.

The investigators said they plan to question personnel to determine who was in the storage room.

Deputy Mayor Samuel F. Iraci Jr. said employees working on and above the affected floors were told to evacuate the building. Building Superintendent Dominic Macri estimated about 600 people eventually left the building.

Iraci said there is speculation the fire was triggered by youngsters lighting paper. There have been reports of youngsters roaming throughout the building in recent days.

Iraci said it is difficult to secure the building during working hours.

"We try to do as much as we can, but aside from having people sign in and out we take every precaution," he said. "We're willing to look at anything. Our top priority is people's safety."

Fire officials estimated damage to the building at $7,000 and damage contents, $3,000.

Human Resources Commissioner Donald Allen said his staff would inspect the damage.

Acting Division Chief Frank Donovan suffered a sprained left knee at the fire. He was treated at the scene and remained on duty.

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