Fires break out in Mendocino and Mariposa halls at Sacramento State

Brett Johnson

Fires broke out Thursday in two of Sacramento State’s buildings, Mariposa and Mendocino halls, forcing a complete evacuation of students, faculty and staff.

The first of the fires was reported at 2:58 p.m. Thursday on the fifth floor of Mendocino Hall. Around 10 to 15 minutes later, a second fire was reported on the fourth floor on Mariposa Hall, across the campus from the first blaze.

A male student was initially trapped in Mendocino Hall, but firefighters rescued him from the fifth floor of the building. No injuries were reported.

According to Sacramento State public affairs, both buildings will be closed until 8 a.m. Friday.

The Sacramento Fire Department deployed an engine to the fire in Mendicino Hall, and responded to the fire in Mariposa with another engine. Other engines and ambulances were reported seen on State University Drive East, also responding to the blaze.

Matthew Mills, Sac State professor and trained floor marshall, said he was instructed to order all students in Mariposa to evacuate the building, and not to let them back in for “at least a hour and a half.”

Mills said he had been told the fire was started on a chair in one of the rooms on Mendocino’s fifth floor, and the fire in Mariposa was started in an interior design gallery on the fourth floor.

Hanna Straw, sophomore psychology major, said her class in Mariposa was in session when they saw smoke outside, but they were not afraid because they figured it was coming from Mendocino.

“All of a sudden the fire alarm went off, and the teacher came in and asked us to get out,” Straw said. “We went outside of the classroom, and waited in the hallway. Our teacher came out and said, ‘No, we have to get all the way out of the building.'”

Following the evacuation, the buildings were sealed off with police tape. Firefighters entered the smoke-filled buildings, and the sound of shattering glass was heard from outside. Firefighters were forced to smash out windows on the north side of Mariposa Hall.

The fire in Mendocino escalated to a two-alarm fire, which means another engine from the fire department was called in to assist in putting out the fire.

Sac State spokeswoman Kim Nava tweeted from her personal Twitter account classes in the two buildings were officially cancelled for the rest of the day.

“We are doing all we can to ensure safety is a No. 1 concern for students,” Nava said.

Nava said the situation looked suspicious. A CAL Fire investigator arrived on campus to look into the cause of the blazes.

CBS13 reported a third fire, this time in a garbage can outside Eureka Hall, according to fire officials at the scene. The fire was quickly extinguished.

Update (6:20 p.m.): The Sacramento Fire Department has cleared out of Mendocino and Mariposa halls, leaving CAL Fire to conduct its investigation.

Students are being allowed into the buildings in groups to collect their belongings left behind during the evacuation. See related story here.

Deputy Chief Lloyd Ogan of the Sacramento Fire Department described the fires as complex due to two occurences in separate buildings at nearly the same time.

Ogan said the fires were small and easily managed.

University Police will step up its presence on campus tonight with additional officers called in and stepped up patrols – particularly near the residence halls, according to a statement from the university.

The State Fire Marshal is investigating the fires, and the cause is not yet known.

The State Hornet will update this story as details become available.

Benjamin R. Schilter contributed to this report. Brett Johnson can be reached at [email protected]