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Black smoke coming from the roof of the Consulate-General of Russia Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in San Francisco. The San Francisco Fire Department says acrid, black smoke seen pouring from a chimney at the Russian consulate in San Francisco was apparently from a fire burning in a fireplace. The smoke was seen billowing from the consulate building a day after the Trump administration ordered its closure. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
AP Photo/Eric Risberg
Ignore the symbolism.
NOT-SO-PALE FIRE

On a sweltering day, Russia’s San Francisco consulate is burning stuff before it is shut down

By Max de Haldevang

The US government is forcing Russia’s consulate in San Francisco to shut down on Saturday (Sept. 2) in the latest in a series of tit-for-tat punishments.

As workers scramble to close the building in time, acrid black smoke began billowing out of its chimney, according to local news reports. When firefighters showed up to investigate, they were turned away by staff and told the consulate was “burning unidentified items in a fireplace,” the AP says. All on a scorching hot day, with temperatures reaching 95°F (35°C).

“It was not unintentional. They were burning something in their fireplace,” San Francisco fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talamadge said. She couldn’t explain why a fire was needed on such a hot day.

The two countries have been at odds since Russia allegedly hacked the 2016 US presidential elections. This week, the Trump administration ordered the Russians to close all its US outposts except for its embassy in Washington and consulates in Seattle and Houston, after Moscow forced the US to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia from around 1,200 to 455.