Two small fires broke out at the Graduate School of Management and Conference Center construction site on Apr. 4, and were contained shortly after by the UC Davis Fire Department.
The fires were reported by several passer-bys near the Mondavi Center, at 2:56 p.m. and extinguished by 4 p.m. Officials say the fires were started deliberately, however the cause is still being investigated.
“The two fires were very small inside,” Assistant Fire Chief Nathan Trauernicht said. “There was a lot of black smoke though, and that was because one of the fires was set in a plastic garbage can. Whenever plastic burns, it causes that kind of smoke.”
The damage caused by the fires, located on the second and third floors of the building, was fairly minimal, and only small areas were affected by smoke and heat.
“It really didn’t take long at all to extinguish,” Trauernicht said.
The fires will not hinder the construction in any way, said Karl Mohr, associate director of public and private partnerships for the Office of Resource Management and Planning.
“It appears that the fires were not set in an effort to do damage,” Mohr said. “There were materials nearby that could have caused a lot more damage, so if whoever started the fires wanted to do damage, he or she would not have set the fires [where they did].”
Though some members of the city of Davis were opposed to the construction of the hotel near the school and conference center in 2001, relations are now friendly and there has been no opposition since.
“The leading theory is that it was just a bunch of kids,” Mohr said.
The UC Davis Police Department is currently investigating the cause of the fires.
“In a case like this one, we would first go to the origin of the fire, and after that we can determine how it started and whether there were chemicals involved, or the fire was electrical, or something else,” Police Sergeant Paul Henoch said. “We work backwards.”
The university was not charged for the fire department’s services, since it is a unit of the university itself, and its expenses are covered by tax dollars and tuition money.
The graduate school and conference center are on schedule for their fall 2009 completion date, Mohr said. Construction began in Dec. 2007 on the new three-story facility. It will span 40,000 square feet and will be located next to the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, as well as a new hotel.
“The fire did not have a significant effect on the construction or the building,” Mohr said. “The Graduate School of Management will be completed in the fall, and this fire will not affect that.”
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.