Employees battle fire in Pacific Heights building

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After fire alarms failed to activate, two employees battled a fire that sprung mysteriously from a basket full of laundry in the Pacific Heights building over Veterans Day.

At approximately 9 a.m. on Nov. 12, Head Baseball Coach Dino Nomicos noticed smoke coming from under the locked door of the wrestling coach’s office. He looked through the window to find the smoke coming from a laundry basket and immediately pulled the alarm. Nothing happened. He pulled two more fire alarms with no effect before calling 911.

The campus was closed for the holiday and no one else was in the building besides Nomicos, who was in his office doing paperwork. After noticing the smoke, he called Supervisor Manny Granillo for custodian and grounds operations. Granillo raced from his home to unlock and open the door of the office.

“Manny came over in, like, five minutes,” Nomicos said. “By the time he got here it started to catch on fire.”

Granillo unlocked and threw open the door revealing the smoky room. Nomicos rushed in and attempted to put out the growing flames with emergency fire extinguishers.

“The flames were about eight feet high…the place was black,” Nomicos said.

Nomicos successfully put out the flames using two fire extinguishers, but by the time the Fire Department arrived, the pile of clothes began to smolder again.

Three fire engines, one truck, and a battalion chief arrived on the scene, putting out the laundry basket before any more damage could be done to the Pacific Heights building.

According to the San Bruno Fire Department, the first two fire engines took care of the small blaze quickly before the rest of the personnel arrived. No one was hurt, but the damages were estimated at $1,000 and no cause has been determined for the mysterious outburst of flame.

No alarms went off during this fire. The main fire alarm panel at the Pacific Heights campus registered the flames, but did not trigger the loud horns and flashing strobe lights that would normally warn people of the emergency, according to a report from Construction Manager Doug Henry for the San Mateo County Community College District Capital Improvements Program at Skyline College.

The system was tested at the beginning of construction under the supervision of the San Bruno Fire Marshall and was deemed safe, but new speculations have arisen about the age of the system as the cause of the malfunction. The old alarm system was independent of Skyline, but soon will be connected to ensure that this type of thing does not happen again.

It remains a mystery what exactly caused the malfunction in the alarm system, but since the time of the incident, it has been replaced.