Building 22 fire investigated as arson

By Ryan Junt and Byron Patten - Staff Reporters

A fire that erupted in Building 22 on Monday at 11 a.m. is being investigated as arson.

Public Safety officials said there is a suspect and the matter is being investigated by South King Fire and Rescue and King County Sheriff's Office.

"The fire was extinguished quickly within five to 10 minutes" but "the smoke went into the ventilation and is stuck in the paint," said Public Safety Director David Menke.

At this time, it is unknown when the damage will be repaired but it will take time, said Public Safety officials.

On any ordinary day, Building 22 is filled with various classes. The same was true on Jan. 29, until one student happened across a fire on her way to the bathroom.

"She came back really quickly, saying, 'there's a fire, we should leave,'" said student Allisson Chancelor. "By the time we got into the hall, there was a lot of smoke."

In orderly and safe fashion, the classrooms evacuated the building onto the surrounding walkways.

It wasn't long before alerts appeared on campus computers and cellphones as the HC Alerts System kicked in.

As classes emptied, students gathered on the perimeter and nearby buildings to watch the event unfold.

Student Michael Armstrong was exiting the Student Union Building.

"I first heard the sound of the alarms. That immediately grabbed my notice," Armstrong said. "People were still evacuating when the smoke started coming out. I could smell it [smoke] immediately," he said.

The black smoke escaped through the open doors and windows all around the building.

"I don't know what is burning, but it certainly isn't paper," Chancelor said, referring to the smell. "I'm not sure if it's a plastic or rubber, but it's strong."

One student standing on the balcony of Building 26 was also in a class as the incident unfolded.

"It was in the women's restroom. The trashcan along the corner wall was on fire," said Trisha, who declined to give her last name.

"Security showed up almost immediately and then the fire department was there within two minutes."

Together, Public Safety and South King Fire and Rescue blocked off the building, tying yellow tape across all entrances.

The fire department was able to extinguish the flames quickly, but security continued to block students from entering the building until 1:30 p.m. when classes resumed.

Two days later however, faculty members were still being given the option or relocating their classes from the building due to the smell.

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