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Pentagon: Building Open as Fires Still Burn - 2001-09-12

Stubborn fires continue to burn at the Pentagon, struck Tuesday by a hijacked American Airlines jet.

The headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department are open for business but it is anything but business as usual. Close to half of the famous five-sided structure is cordoned off and fires are still burning.

Arlington County fire chief Ed Plaugher says the fires are very stubborn. "We are still engaged in a very stubborn firefight with parts of the building," he told reporters Wednesday morning. "We have recently requested some additional specialized apparatus that will gain access to the center courtyard of the Pentagon and we're bringing in additional specialized individuals, very highly trained in this type of firefighting."

Officials say there are two different fires: one located in the roof of this World War II era structure. The other involves jet fuel from the airliner that slammed into the building. Some of the specialists brought in to join the hundreds of firefighters on duty are from airport fire units.

There are still no official estimates on the number of casualties. The Arlington fire chief has said the number of dead could be as high as 800. But Pentagon officials say they have no confidence in that figure. They are still compiling a roster of missing personnel. Search and rescue personnel are standing by but no cases have been reported of any survivors being found in the debris.

Thousands of workers have returned to the Pentagon. But many found their offices were still considered unsafe. Some have been redirected to other defense department sites in the area while others are sharing space with Pentagon staffers whose offices are open.