Friday, May 30, 2008

Hookah sets dorm on fire at UCSB campus


A hookah started a fire in a UC Santa Barbara dormitory yesterday morning, forcing 400 students to evacuate while firefighters battled the blaze.
UCSB spokesman Paul Desruisseaux said four rooms sustained heavy damage, while the windows in two other rooms were broken as a result of the high heat produced by the fire. He said two female students sustained minor injuries during the evacuation, one of who fell and split her head.

Though an investigation into the cause of the fire is still pending, Desruisseaux said investigators discovered some students had been smoking a hookah prior to the fire. He said some speculated the hookah pipe, which is Indian in origin and most commonly used to smoke flavored tobacco, was set on a windowsill to cool, but instead ignited the curtains.
“It was an accidental fire caused by the careless use of a water pipe,” Desruisseaux said. He added that the students, who were male, were not smoking illegal drugs. However, he said no smoking is permissible in the dormitories, and the students will face disciplinary action.
The fire broke out at 3:30 a.m. in the Santa Rosa dormitory, a two-story building that Desruisseaux said is the third oldest structure on campus and was build in 1956. The dorm is located on UCEN Road and is occupied primarily by first-year students.
He said the building did not have sprinklers, though when it was constructed it was built to code. The building does have smoke alarms that are hard wired into the Santa Barbara County Fire Department’s system, he said.
Most of the students who were evacuated were allowed back in their rooms by 7 a.m. The eight students whose rooms were damaged will be relocated, Desruisseaux said.
Campus officials hadn’t assessed the dollar amount of damage last night, but Desruisseaux said none of the rooms were completely destroyed.
In his more than seven years on campus, Desruisseaux said he only remembers one dormitory fire.
“It’s not a common occurrence by any means,” he said. “I’d say it’s pretty rare.”

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