The police and fire departments in Houston, Texas, responded on Tuesday night to reports of a blaze at the Consulate General of China.
The fire turned out to be Chinese agents burning a massive trove of documents after the U.S. government ordered the consulate to be closed due to allegations of espionage.
KHOU News in Houston reported that people living near the consulate made 911 calls at around 8:20 p.m. local time to report fires burning in the courtyard, but when firefighters arrived, they were denied permission to enter the premises.
The Houston Fire Department explained “it would not enter the premises without consent unless there is a threat to health and safety, which officials said there was not.”
The document fire was quite noticeable from outside the consulate grounds:
This video shared with us by a viewer who lives next to the Consulate General of China in #Houston shows fire and activity in the courtyard of the building.
DETAILS SO FAR: https://t.co/2cOeKoap96 pic.twitter.com/0myxe6HIlC
— KPRC2Tulsi (@KPRC2Tulsi) July 22, 2020
Several fire and police vehicles arrived at the consulate building in response to the 911 calls:
“You could just smell the paper burning, but all the firefighters were just surrounding the building. They couldn’t go inside,” an eyewitness told KPRC News.
“It appears to be open burning in a container within the courtyard of the Chinese consulate facility. It does not appear to be an unconfined fire but we have not been allowed access. We are standing by and monitoring,” Houston fire chief Sam Pena said, as quoted by KTRK News.
The Houston Police Department also said its officers responded to the 911 calls and were denied permission to enter the building.
The fires were reportedly extinguished soon after the fire department arrived at the scene.