A section of ductwork caught fire in the new $1.2 billion U.S. Strategic Command headquarters under construction at Offutt Air Force Base, sending two workers to the hospital after they inhaled smoke Thursday.
The fire started about 1:50 p.m. in lower level two of the building, said Mike Blass, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District, which is in charge of the construction project. Welding was taking place in the area at the time.
All workers were evacuated from the building, Blass said. He wasn’t sure how many were working on the 80-acre site. Other buildings at Offutt weren’t affected.
Fire departments from Offutt and neighboring Bellevue responded to the site, near the base’s southern entrance on Capehart Road.
“The fire itself was put out quickly,” Blass said. But firefighters were at the scene for several hours to make sure the fire stayed extinguished. It wasn’t known yet how much of the ductwork was burned.
Two workers closest to the fire were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, Blass said. Both were taken to the hospital for blood tests and then released.
Blass said he didn’t know for certain whether the two worked for the building contractor, KiewitPhelps, or a subcontractor.
“The life, health and safety of our teammates are our top priority,” Army Corps District Commander Col. John Henderson said in a written statement. “We will conduct a full investigation into the cause of the fire.”
Ground was broken on the building — which is among the Pentagon’s largest current construction projects — in October 2012. The building itself costs more than $600 million. StratCom intends to spend an additional $600 million to furnish and fill it with high-tech electronics and communications gear. Its current headquarters was built in 1957.
Some of the ductwork for the building’s massive heating and air-conditioning system was discovered to be infested with mold during an inspection in September 2015. Work was stopped at the site so the ducts could be inspected, and about 4,000 feet were removed and replaced.
The mold caused months of delays. The current schedule calls for StratCom to fully occupy the building in July 2019.