***Additional reporting by Travis Wesley***
Black smoke was seen coming out of the chimney of the Russian consulate in San Francisco earlier today, a day after the Trump administration directed the closure of the building after tension between the United States and Russia heightened.
Firefighters were dismissed by consulate officials and told that the staff was burning unidentified items in the fireplace, according to the Associated Press.
Spokeswoman from the San Francisco Fire Department, Mindy Talmadge told AP Friday, “It was not unintentional. They were burning something in their fireplace.”
The consulate, which is occupied mostly by Russian emigres and technology workers, is rushing to shut down in order to meet their ordered Saturday deadline after a statement was released by the United States Department of State Thursday. San Francisco’s Russian consulate is Russia’s oldest in the U.S.
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert of the United States Department of State said in the statement, “In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City. These closures will need to be accomplished by September 2.”
“To see the (degradation) of relations between the two nations is shocking,” said Ross Butler, son of former Honorary Consul General of the Russian Federation R.E. Butler, after being denied entry into the consulate building. Butler attempted to drop off unidentified documents to the consul general.
Both countries will still have three consulates each after the latest closures.