Bathroom fire in Campus Center
Merritt Holloway, Reporter
October 31, 2012
Filed under Campus
A fire began out in the Bakersfield College Campus Center’s men’s restroom around 10:50 a.m. on Oct. 27.
First semester journalism student Kevin Phillips was in his photojournalism class when he had to go to the restroom.
“I opened the door and the smoke hit me,” said Phillips. “It was too much smoke, and really too black to go into the bathroom. I hurried and closed the door.”
He told his professor John Harte. Harte assessed the situation and thought it was serious. He immediately phoned public safety and evacuated his class.
When public safety arrived, one officer ran into the campus center with a fire extinguisher while another evacuated a conference room of high school seniors involved in a presentation.
Moments later, as the two classes and others were on the lawn in front of the campus center, the Mount Vernon Fire Departments Engine Eight arrived in full fire regalia. The firefighters entered into the cordoned off area, and about two minutes later returned to the truck.
According to firefighter Kyle Cole, “It was just a trash can in the bathroom.”
Shorty afterward, interim president Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg arrived at the Campus Center. She was in her office working when she received a text message about the fire.
“I’m doing good,” said Gomez-Heitzeberg. “But I was doing better before I found out we had a fire here on campus.
“That was a kind of exciting break in my morning,” said Gomez-Heitzeberg. “I’d rather not have those.”
She said there was going to be an arson investigation.
Phillips, who initially found the fire, said, “It smelled like it may have been electrical, so I just immediately left the bathroom and brought it to the instructors attention so that we could stop it before it got worse.”
Phillips was about to pull the fire alarm, but “in about thirty seconds [public safety] were right here.”
The public safety officer told Phillips that if he needed to pull the fire alarm to get everybody out safely don’t hesitate to pull it, or if there’s a fire on campus, to go ahead and pull the fire alarm.
Harte explained that he was just following the campus protocol.
“It took about a couple of minutes to evacuate the class,” he said. “That was my primary concern. To make sure it doesn’t get over into our classroom.”