Statements on Headquarters Fire

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Date: October 5, 2014
Contact: Mike LItterst, 202-306-4166

Friday, October 3 at 4:54 p.m. 
The National Park Service reports there was a fire at the headquarters complex for Flight 93 National Memorial on Friday afternoon. Neither the memorial proper nor the new visitor center currently under construction were affected, as the headquarters is located approximately two miles from those sites. Initial reports are of extensive damage to the complex;additional information will be reported as it becomes known. All employees and volunteers were safely evacuated and there were no reported injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Friday, October 3 at 7:25 p.m. 
This afternoon at approximately 3:10 p.m. a fire was reported in the headquarters complex of Flight 93 National Memorial.

The flames were whipped by high winds and, despite efforts, first by park staff and then by local emergency responders, all three of the buildings in the complex are a total loss. 

Of greatest importance, all of the staff and volunteers working in the buildings successfully evacuated without injury or incident. For this, we are extremely thankful. 

We are also grateful for the quick and professional response of the many area fire departments and other first responders who assisted in putting this fire out, preventing further damage to the site without incurring any injuries among their members. 

The lost buildings served multiple functions for the operation of the memorial, including administrative and staff offices, conference facilities, and storage of some of the memorial's archival and curatorial collection. 

Of greatest concern are those collections. Fortunately, only 10% of the Flight 93 National Memorial collection was kept on-site in this building, and many of those objects are stored in fireproof safes. Until the area is declared safe, however, staff will not be able to access the collection storage area and determine the condition of any other objects. 

We do know that the oral history collection and the photo collection were saved by park staff, and the Congressional Gold Medal awarded last month was not on-site at the time of the fire. 

The 9/11 flag that flew over the United States Capitol on September 11 and was presented to the park just last month during the annual 9/11 observance was stored on site, though, again, staff have not yet been able to access the collection area to determine the condition of the flag. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation by local fire officials, but National Park Service special agents are en route to the site and will take over the investigation upon their arrival. It is too early to speculate as to what started the blaze. 

Because of the distant location of these buildings from the memorial plaza and the access road to reach the memorial, Flight 93 National Memorial will be open for visitors on Saturday morning at the regular time. 

Saturday, October 4 at 4:52 p.m. 
The investigation into yesterday's fire at the headquarters of Flight 93 National Memorial is ongoing and is being jointly investigated by the National Park Service and Pennsylvania State Police. Members of both agencies worked throughout the night to secure the scene and begin the investigation.  

At this point, no initial cause has been determined.  

While the headquarters complex is a complete loss, we continue to be grateful that there was no loss of life to visitors or employees, especially given the speed with which the fire engulfed the structures. One employee, who is also a member of the Somerset [corrected from initial release that said Shanksville] Volunteer Fire Department, suffered minor first degree burns as he attempted to extinguish the blaze with fire extinguishers.  

Park staff today conducted an initial inventory of the objects from the park's collection that were stored in the building to determine what was saved and what was lost.  

Among the items saved were the vast majority, if not all, of the 820 oral histories conducted since 2005 that provide first-person insight into the crash, its investigation and the establishment of Flight 93 National Memorial. Additionally, the memorial's archival photo collection, 480 DVDs containing tens of thousands of images of the crash scene, investigation, temporary memorials and construction of the permanent memorial survived the fire.  

Unfortunately, the flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol on September 11, 2001 was destroyed.  

Other losses include a handful of personal items of the passengers and crew, both recovered from the crash site and provided by family members to represent their loved ones;lone copies of DVDs of the annual commemoration ceremonies and meetings of the Flight 93 National Memorial Federal Advisory Commission;and approximately 100 tribute items to the passengers and crew that have been left by visitors since 2001. The vast majority of the 60,000 tribute items continue to be stored offsite and were unaffected by the fire.  

Some of these objects, important to the story of United Flight 93, were on-site to be photographed, measured and prepared for display by exhibit designers for inclusion in the new visitor center.

Sunday, October 5 at 4:05 p.m.
Investigators with the National Park Service and Pennsylvania State Police have discovered no indication of arson or foul play in the fire that destroyed the Flight 93 National Memorial headquarters on Friday afternoon. The investigation is ongoing;definitive findings, including the cause of the fire, are not expected for a matter of weeks. With the on-site investigation complete, the scene of the fire has been turned back over to park officials, who have begun the process of salvaging materials from the site.  

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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