- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2007

Firefighters yesterday fought a two-alarm blaze that broke out at the old Prince George’s County Courthouse after construction workers accidentally set fire to some roofing materials, authorities said.

The fire was a reminder of the November 2004 blaze that gutted the 126-year-old landmark but was nowhere near as serious, fire officials said.

Authorities said construction workers ignited some petroleum-based material at around 2 p.m. while working on the roof of the old courthouse, in the 14000 block of Main Street in the center of Upper Marlboro.

“They were hanging drainpipes and using a torch when the roofing insulation caught fire,” said fire department Maj. Angela Peden.

Thick, black smoke poured from the roof and forced the partial evacuation of the new courthouse, which is located behind the historic building and houses the county’s District Court, Circuit Court and State’s Attorney’s Office.

Maj. Peden said the blaze was confined to the roof of the two-story building and burned itself out in less than an hour, causing about $75,000 in damage.

No one was injured in the fire, and Maj. Peden said construction workers had already gone back to work last night.

In November 2004, construction crews were two months from completing a $27 million renovation that began in May 2003 when a four-alarm fire destroyed much of the building.

About 165 firefighters battled the blaze, which in an hour caused $8 million in damage.

Fire officials said temporary lighting used in the attic of the courthouse during the renovations caused the fire. A second, much smaller, fire started about two weeks later, on Nov. 20, 2004, when a pocket of smoldering materials left from the first fire briefly reignited.

The courthouse dates back to 1881. Fire also destroyed the original wooden courthouse that had stood at the site since 1720.

The landmark building attracted national attention in 1972 when it hosted the five-day trial of Arthur Bremer. He was found guilty of attempting to assassinate Alabama Gov. George Wallace at a political rally in Laurel.

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