Alcatraz Island fire shuts down tours

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Evan DuCharme/Special to the S.F. Examiner
Alcatraz Cruises had to temporarily lay off 15 workers during the federal government shutdown.

A small fire in the cell house on Alcatraz Island shut down access for visitors Sunday afternoon.

The smell of smoke was reported around 2:30 p.m., according to San Francisco Fire Department dispatch officials. When a fire boat and crew arrived on the island a short time later they found an overheated motor in the basement of the cell house.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area ranger George Durgerian said as a precaution tours to the island were canceled for remainder of the day.

A fire alarm went off in the building, Durgerian said, but no injuries were reported.

An inspector will visit the island Monday to assess the damage.

Alcatraz Island became home to the first light house on the West Coast in 1850, according to the National Parks Service. It served as a federal penitentiary from 1934 until 1963, when three inmates escaped.

Now a National Park, an estimated 5,000 people visit the island daily.

Durgerian said arrangements will be made for those who planned on visiting the island Sunday afternoon, but couldn't as a result of the fire.

“We don’t want to leave them hanging,” he said.

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