Darkness Falls on Skyline

Students evacuate the campus after power outage and subsequent small fire in the automotive department.  ()

Students evacuate the campus after power outage and subsequent small fire in the automotive department. ()

A small fire took place in Skyline’s Automotive building Thurs. Feb. 9, as a result of a power failure that affected the entire city of San Bruno and surrounding areas.

According to Dan Voreyer, San Bruno’s fire chief, the power failure happened when a high voltage transmission line, located behind the 3300 block on Fleetwood, failed.

The San Bruno fire department received a call from Skyline’s security at 7:24 p.m.

According to an email sent out to faculty by Vice President of Student Services, Lori Adrian, the power went out at 7:18 p.m. and was out for about a minute before coming back on. The power then went out again at 7:25 p.m. and stayed out until approximately 8:45 p.m.

Richard Escalambre, Automotive Professor, said the power had come back with about 1/3 of the power, some lights were working and others were dim.

“We heard a noise and an overhead ventilation system was smoking,” Escalambre said.

“The brushes in the motor [had] caught on fire.”

Escalambre immediately called Skyline security and security called the police department. According to Escalambre the fluctuation between power and no power can be attributed to a motor burn out, when the motor dragged and burned up the brushes.

The fire occurred about five minutes after the power came back on the first time. It lasted approximately 15 minutes, until the power went out again and the fire became extinguished.

“That cut the power to the motor and put out the fire,” Escalambre said.

When the fire department showed up, they checked to make sure the fire hadn’t gotten into the walls. They also made sure to cut the power source to the ventilator.

Tony Gulli, chief maintenance engineer, was summoned up to the automotive department after the fire department had done an initial evaluation. Gulli verified that the power had been disconnected to the already burnt up motor. He made sure there would be no reoccurrence of the fire.

Gulli had never seen anything like this happen in his 21 years of working here.

“Something like this normally does not happen,” Gulli said. “This was an unforeseen circumstance.” Gulli added that the ongoing construction and the age of the motor were likely contributors.

A possible cause of the fire was replacement electrical equipment that did not have the protection devices of the original. The motor originally came with the building, and according to Gulli, was approximately 40 years old.

Mike Woolery, from John Plane Construction, said that it was a compatibility problem between the old and new equipment and that the replacement motor will have the appropriate protection.

Escalambre was satisfied with how smoothly the whole process went.

“Things can always progress to be worse; in this case it didn’t.”