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Vol. LVII, No. 17
August 26, 2005

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Fire Damages Building Under Renovation

A fire in the attic of Bldg. 6 broke out Aug. 15, shortly after 5 p.m., drawing NIH firefighters and numerous local departments, but was quickly extinguished. The building was empty at the time and no one was injured. Employees in Bldgs. 6A and 6B adjacent to the historic structure were evacuated during the fire, but later allowed to return. According to the NIH fire marshal, a worker involved in the renovation of Bldg. 6 had been using a torch to cut a vent pipe in the attic. Evidently, hot metal dripped into the roof membrane, where it smoldered unnoticed until after workers had left for the day. Heavy smoke from the blaze drifted across campus. NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington, sitting in his office in Bldg. 1, smelled smoke and turned in the alarm at 5:05 p.m. A second alarm was requested as backup, but the fire was put out by the NIH Fire Department and the second alarm units were placed back in service, said NIH Fire Chief Gary Hess. Other units from Montgomery County and the National Naval Medical Center remained on the scene to assist with salvage and overhaul operations, he added. Some 80 firefighters swarmed the scene at the fire's height. According to Bob McDonald, project officer for the decommissioning of the building, Bldg. 6 was undergoing abatement and soft, interior demolition in preparation for major renovation. This includes removal of interior walls, old lab space — basically a gutting of the inside. That process will continue in the wake of the accident.

New Innovations at NIEHS Day Care Center

In keeping with a tradition of staying on the cutting edge of early childhood education, the new day care center that NIEHS shares with EPA is taking shape as an innovative facility that promises to entertain, coddle and educate youngsters. NIEHS Administrative Officer Dona McNeill (r) stands in the new center, which is nearing completion. The building is designed so it is easy to monitor what is happening in the classrooms. Frosted glass walls with circles of clear glass divide the classrooms from the hallways. The clear circles allow parents standing outside a room to see nearly everything happening inside the room. Besides the bells and whistles modern child care centers require — toy sterilizers, keypad front door access, state-of-the-art security and fire monitoring systems and Internet connections — the building was designed to incorporate many of the "green features" required by EPA such as high ceilings, using as much natural lighting as possible. The new $3.6 million First Environments Early Learning Center is designed to stimulate a child physically, creatively and intellectually. Each classroom will have a door to an outside play area. The exterior walls facing the outdoor play areas feature huge windows spanning nearly floor to ceiling. Instead of a playground, the new facility will have an "outdoor learning environment" with sensory paths, plants, water fountains and sculptures, seating rocks, semi-secluded privacy areas that teachers can easily monitor and sculptures. Construction began nearly 2 years ago. The center has hired a cook from Whole Foods, a natural foods grocery story, to prepare meals using more fresh foods. The day care center will also have a greenhouse and a garden. The cook will work with staff to plan the garden, making good use of the food produced there, McNeill said..

Wednesday Afternoon Lecture

The Wednesday Afternoon Lecture series — held on its namesake day at 3 p.m. in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10 — resumes after its summer break with a talk by Dr. Adrian R. Krainer on Sept. 7. He will address "Alternative Splicing in Health and Disease." Krainer is professor, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.

For more information or for reasonable accommodation, call Hilda Madine, (301) 594-5595.

Plain Language Nominations Due Sept. 16

All NIH employees are welcome to submit nominations for the 2005 NIH Plain Language Awards. Now in its sixth year, the awards program honors NIH products that are exemplary in communicating information clearly, concisely and to the point. A nomination packet for each item must be received by Ann Brewer in Bldg. 1, Rm. B1-42, by Friday, Sept. 16.

All types of communication products completed from Jan. 1, 2004, through Sept. 16, 2005, are eligible, including letters, brochures, web sites, press releases, scientific papers and reports as well as internal memos, forms, newsletters and manuals. The Plain Language guidelines and nomination form are available at

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