Burnt food causes building evacuations on campus

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  • The microwave in room 7205 where the food caught fire.

  • Students outside Building 8 after being evacuated.

  • Students mill about outside Building 7 where the fire occurred.

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Flashing lights and ear-splitting alarms have marred the otherwise sunny afternoon on Monday, Feb. 5, as students and staff were evacuated from several buildings on campus due to a fire in building seven.

There were no casualties or injuries as a result of the fire, and the scene outside buildings seven and eight belied the events taking place inside. Students could be seen in the areas around the buildings talking to friends and classmates and scrolling through their phones, seemingly undisturbed by the alarms going off throughout the buildings.

“It was a microwave fire,” said Public Safety Assistant Steven (Steve) Cornejo. “It’s out now,” he said as of 2:18 p.m. But the students were not immediately let back into the building due to Skyline engineers working on resetting the air system to get all the smoke out.

By 2:45 p.m. students were filing back into the classrooms.

The origin of the fire was located in building seven, room 7205. Even though the air systems were reset, the room was still smoky shortly after students and faculty were let back into the building. The microwave where the fire started, is one of four on the counter along the right side of the room. The burnt toast smell could have easily been mistaken for originating from the toaster right next to it, yet; it came from a small, white Magic Chef microwave stacked atop a larger, Kenmore microwave.

Alice Erskine, a Surgical Technology Instructor at Skyline was the first one to spot the fire. She had just finished up a requested lab for her students when she came into the room and noticed the fire around 2:30 p.m.

“I kept yelling ‘Who’s here? Who’s here?’ And I saw people out in the hallway. I went to see who put something in here (the microwave) and as I’m turning around a student comes up and I asked (if) was he cooking,(and if) was it his food.”

According to Erskine, the student had put food in the microwave and set it to reheat and then left to use the bathroom. When he came back, it was burning. Erskine describes the food as a “pastry-like thing, like a Hot Pocket, but it was all black” as both the food and paper plate were on fire when she saw it.

Describing the smoke, Erskine said, “It was just thick in here.” Then the alarms started to go off.

“I was just pushing people out,” recalled. “When I saw him I said we had to go. He was reluctant to leave. He was apologizing.”

Public Safety Captain Jim Vangele advised people to “stay present” and not to leave the room or be distracted when using a heating appliance so events like today don’t happen.

Firemen responded to the fire, but they came and left and classes resumed. The microwave at the center of the commotion looks perfectly normal, grease splatters on the inside a college version of the iconic Jackson Pollock painting but with a slightly smokier smell.