A billow of smoke appeared from below the ground Monday at approximately 1:50 p.m. on the east side of Olson Hall. The fire started below the ground in a grate and was put out before causing any structural damage by Dewight Kramer, assistant network administrator in the social sciences department.
Fire department officials do not know for sure what started the fire, but say that the dry, windy weather elevated the chances of it happening.
“Somehow the leaves caught on fire and with the winds, it was able to build,” said UC Davis Fire Department Captain Richard Moore. “Fortunately it was contained to an outside area.“
As the smoke started to get darker in color, students inside and outside Olson grew concerned. Many students did not realize it was a fire, and some walked over the grate as the fire was picking up.
“I didn’t even smell the smoke and people weren’t panicking until the leaves coming out were black and the smoke started changing colors,” said Andrew Tans, a junior biotechnology major who witnessed the fire from outside the building.
At this point, Kramer walked past the smoke and was reminded of a similar incident outside Olson Hall approximately one year ago when another student put out the fire with a fire hose inside the building. Kramer evaluated the situation and decided to do the same.
“When I noticed the base of the tree was on fire, I went in to get the hose,” Kramer said. Though he had minimal fire safety training a few years ago, most of his instinct was derived from the incident he witnessed last year.
Most of the students who watched Kramer put out the fire were surprised that there were even hoses inside the building. Both Kramer and Moore stressed the importance of knowing where a building’s fire extinguishers and hoses are located, in case of future emergencies.
Shortly after 2 p.m., four fire vehicles appeared on the scene, two from the UC Davis Fire Department and two from the Davis Fire Department. The fire was extinguished as they pulled up.
“We’re very appreciative of [Kramer] for taking initiative and protecting the campus,” Moore said. “Thankfully everything’s okay and just the smell of smoke got sucked into the air conditioning and is still in the building.“
Fire department officials stated that this week’s hot weather may increase the chances of another fire, and are on high alert in case such an incidence occurs.
LAUREN STEUSSY and WENDY WANG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org