The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Fire in CAB lab classroom, building evacuated

Fire in CAB lab classroom, building evacuated - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Business management senior Andrea Caraveo leans against an emergency pole Sept. 14, 2022, south of the Central Academic Building at Texas A&M University-San Antionio. Approximately 150 people were evacuated from the building after a fire alarm went off just before 5:45 p.m. Photo by Amber Esparza

In the early evening of Sept. 14, a small fire in a science lab of the Central Academic Building at Texas A&M University-San Antonio caused about 150 people to evacuate.

No injuries were reported, according to a San Antonio Fire Department official. The university canceled night classes and temporarily closed the building. 

The fire department received the call at approximately 5:45 p.m., said Russell Johnson, San Antonio Fire Department Battalion Chief 2.

Students, faculty and staff streamed out of the building as an alarm blared, announcing a fire emergency and advising people to not use the elevators.

Johnson said the fire began on a lab table in classroom 302 of CAB. According to JagWire, a lab for BIOL 2421, Introduction to Microbiology, is held 3-5:45 p.m. Wednesdays in Room 302 of CAB.

“They were working with ethanol or some kind of flammable liquid,” Johnson said.

A small beaker of the liquid caught fire and got into the plastic dividers between the stalls. 

Although the fire caused a lot of black smoke, it was not hot enough to set off any fire sprinklers.

The fire was put out quickly with a fire extinguisher. However, the black smoke was a challenge for the firefighters.

“It’s a challenge because we don’t want to break out all the windows,” Johnson said. 

After the fire department deemed the building safe, firefighters at CAB’s south entrance were allowing students, faculty and staff back into the building at about 6:35 p.m.

“We didn’t see any danger before we left,” Jesus Contreras, captain at Fire Station 2, later said in a phone interview, adding that an estimated 150 people were in the building at the time of the fire.

Firefighters and students filter in and out of the Central Academic Building Sept. 14, 2022, in the aftermath of a small fire in a chemistry lab on the building’s third floor. Fire Captain Jesus Contreras said the fire did minimal damage to a table and partitions within the lab. Photo by Amber Esparza

However, university officials then decided to temporarily shut down the building and cancel night classes. Although some people had already entered CAB, University Police Department officers prohibited others from returning inside the building. Those already inside the building were told they needed to leave.

Five fire engines responded to the fire. Two of them were parked between the building and dozens of students standing on the gravel between CAB and Classroom Hall. Crowds of students, faculty and staff also waited in the CAB quad as the building was being cleared.

Kinesiology sophomore Celina Cantu and biology sophomore Anthony Ibarra were rehearsing with the campus mariachi group a couple of doors down from the lab. They said they initially thought it was a fire drill, but then the alarm announced a “fire emergency.” They also smelled the smoke.

“We thought it was fake, and then we said, ‘Oh no, we smell smoke,’” Cantu said. 

An e-sports group on campus, TAMUSA e-Sports, had to pause their livestreamed match against Utica University’s e-sports members. The team retreated to Portable 108 as they waited for the building to be cleared. 

Isaiah Luico, a computer Information systems major and member of the e-sports team, was on the first floor when the fire occurred. 

“We were just about to start our match when we heard the alarm go off,” Luico said.

The team’s game was scheduled at 6 p.m. and canceled due to the building being closed off.

At about 7:19 p.m., the university’s emergency system alerted the campus community by phone. At 7:21 p.m. the school tweeted about the fire, the closure of the building and cancellation of classes. The university also sent an emergency text message around 7:39 p.m. 

A university email sent shortly after 9 p.m. read, “CAB has reopened, and all normal operations and activities have resumed.”

Isaac Dobresnski and Noel Perez contributed to this story.

About the Author

Joel Guerrero
Joel Guerrero is a communication junior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. He received an Associate of Arts from Palo Alto College in May 2018. He works full time as a Quality Assurance Analyst. In his spare time, he likes singing karaoke and playing music as a DJ. Upon graduation, he hopes to pursue a career as part of the technical staff at a local TV station.

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