Fire set in Wheelock Gym restroom

Posted: June 4, 2015|Written by James H. Williams and Crystal Olmedo

The fire alarm went off around 11:53 a.m. within the Wheelock Gym after people nearby began to smell smoke.

Riverside City College Softball Coach Michelle Daddona and Athletic Trainer Todd Babcock spotted the smoke coming out of a vent on the northeast side of the building.

RCC Security Officers responded to the alarm and entered the north entrances of the Gym and warned people not go into the building.

Emergency personnel appeared shortly after it was determined that the smoke was a result of a roll of toilet paper that was lit on fire in the men’s restroom, according to Riverside Community College District police officer Ken Jamieson.

Jamieson stated that a roll of toilet paper was lit on fire in a dispenser and caught another roll on fire.

“The smoke was pretty dense when we got (on the scene),” Jamieson said.

John Taack, general maintenance mechanic at RCC extinguished the fire.

John Tack, general maintenance mechanic at RCC exits Wheelock Gym after extinguishing minor fire in the men's restroom on the northeast side of the building June 4.

John Tack, general maintenance mechanic at RCC exits Wheelock Gym after extinguishing a minor fire in the men’s restroom on the northeast side of the building June 4. Crystal Olmedo |Viewpoints

Students that were in the gym at the time the alarm went off evacuated the building.

“I was inside taking a shower and I didn’t get to finish. I had just gotten out of my weight training class. I heard the alarm and I just came outside,” said RCC student Alejandra Hernandez

Dorian Barnett, another RCC student, said he was trying to log out of his personal training class when the alarm sounded.

Riverside Fire Department arrived and set up fans inside the bathroom to ventilate the restroom and clear the smoke. Garrett Coryell, captain of Engine 1 of RFD said that photos were taken of the seen and that an arson investigation will take place.

According to Scott Zwart, director of Facilities, there was minor damage due to the fire in the amount of approximately $500. The bathroom will need to be cleaned and Facilities will ensure that the air is safe to breathe.

At 12:30 p.m. students, staff and faculty were permitted to enter the building.

Chad Price, RCCD police officer, said that the department will check footage captured by cameras located in and around the building for a possible suspect of the arson.

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