Black smoke was seen billowing from a chimney on the roof of the Russian consulate in San Francisco on Friday (1 September), one day after US President Donald Trump ordered it closed and the internet was buzzing with theories. The Trump administration on Thursday had ordered Russia to close the San Francisco Consulate as well as annexes in Washington DC and New York by Saturday (2 September).
The abrupt decision to close the facilities come amid escalating tensions between the US and Russia. After the US passed new, broad economic sanctions against Russia over the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 presidential election, Moscow demanded that the US cut its diplomatic staff in the country by 755.
The Associated Press reports that people who came from inside the building told firefighters that there was "no problem"and that the consulate staff were burning some unidentified items in a fireplace.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District said on Twitter that it sent an inspector over to the Russian consulate and would issue a citation if it found an excessive smoke violation.
The heavy smoke also came on a day when local air quality officials declared a "Spare the Air Day" due to rising temperatures and poor air quality. It was also over 95 degrees Fahrenheit in San Francisco on Friday.
Foreign Policy also reported another fire was spotted behind the Trade Representative of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC.
Meanwhile, the internet erupted with a slew of theories over the mysterious smoke.
"Does this mean Putin has picked a new US president?" one Twitter user asked. Another quipped: "That's a big smoking gun."
"Must be burning a big stack of Trump's love letters to Vladimir!" one social media user said.
California Rep Jackie Speier tweeted: "If there ever was doubt that espionage was going on in the SF consulate, black smoke clears the air on the issue."