Photo/Illutration A fire rages at a temporary observation center that stands next to the former Hokkaido government office building in Sapporo at 12:46 a.m. on Oct. 3. (Haruto Hiraoka)

SAPPORO--A fire has damaged part of a temporary observation center that stands next to the former Hokkaido government office building, a landmark beloved by locals for its attractive design.

The fire started at around 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 3 at the observation center, which is a steel-framed building that stretches three stories tall, according to fire officials.

About 150 square meters of the 470 square-meter building suffered damage in the fire.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze within about two and a half hours.

The former government building is located in the town center near Sapporo Station and is a designated important cultural property nicknamed “Red bricks” for its outward appearance. It is undergoing renovations and the temporary observation center, which houses the government building’s famed dome top, was scheduled to open soon.

One local, a 37-year-old woman, said she was “shocked” to learn about the fire, as the government building is “a symbol of Sapporo.”

No one was injured in the blaze, and Hokkaido police and other authorities are investigating into the damage and cause of the fire. But it is not yet clear if its renowned dome has suffered any damage.

The famous octagonal dome tower, which sat on top of the former government office building, was removed and moved to a spot in front of the building in August so renovations could be carried out.

The dome tower, which measures around 6.5 meters tall and approximately 8 meters wide, was later moved to the temporary observation center.

The observation center was scheduled to reopen in early October and was built to show off the dome tower and other aspects of the former government office building.

Hokkaido police believe the fire started on the third floor of the observation center, as the damage there is severe.

Police said the fire did not appear to have spread to the first or second floors, where the dome is temporarily being housed. Officials will now investigate whether the heat from the fire has damaged the dome tower.

According to the Hokkaido government, the construction of the temporary observation center is nearly finished and no work was carried out on Oct. 1 or 2.

Officials said the third floor contained materials for exhibits, lights, and monitors, and that electricity may have been in use there when the fire started.

They said it seems the fire did not spread to the former government office building.

The former Hokkaido government office building is a celebrated American-style neo-Baroque building, which was originally erected by the Meiji government in 1888.

It was rebuilt as a Gothic building after a fire burned it down in 1909.

In 1968, its exterior was almost returned to its original state in another reconstruction effort.

Around 2.5 million bricks were used to build the current building in the 1968 project. It was carried out to mark the 100th anniversary of the prefecture being named Hokkaido.

It was designated as an important cultural property by the central government in 1969.

The current renovation was scheduled to last until February 2025.

“Although we now can’t open the observation center as we had planned, we believe that the fire won’t change the schedule for the renovation of the former government office building,” a Hokkaido government official said.

(This article was written by Haruto Hiraoka and Akimitsu Ishigaki.)