Microwave Fire Forces Evacuation

Mariel Rossi deVries, staff writer

A fire broke out in Tina Mayer’s classroom on the morning of April 27, prompting the first real evacuation of the year. When the alarm sounded, the fire department was notified and teachers led students to the football field above campus.

According to Mayer, she had been heating her daily Bran muffin when a fire started in the microwave. She didn’t observe anything unusual so when the fire alarms went off she assumed it was from another part of the school. “It was so loud that I walked out of the room and went to the library where it was quiet. There was nothing going on here when I left. I’m sorry I left because if I’d stayed I would have seen what was happening. Then, when I got back 3 minutes later everyone was running around. Someone ran past with a burned out microwave and I thought ‘Oh that’s too bad, someone’s microwave’s a mess’ but then one of the teachers told me it was mine,” said Mayer.

“We thought it was a drill, but when I walked out I saw smoke billowing out of Ms. Mayer’s room. After that we were trying to control it and get the fire extinguisher. I guess I acted pretty calmly about it,” said junior Stone Mao, a TA for Nita Madra’s class next door.

Confusion over how the fire began circulated through the school. Madra speculated that it may have been caused by a short circuit. The heat could have traveled up and set off the fire alarms without being observed.

Fire fighters from the Moraga-Orinda Fire department assessed and cleared the classroom of smoke before departing soon after they arrived. Mayer’s classroom was closed off immediately following the incident; however, the D-Hall was still accessible for other classes and lockers.

The only damage that occurred, aside from the burned microwave itself, was the accidental smashing of Mayer’s bobble head collection, which had been on top of the microwave when it was removed. “They were just in a hurry to get the thing out of here, so they were what we call collateral damage,” said Mayer.

Most students did not understand the source of the commotion as they filed up to the football field midway through 2nd period. As they assembled with their classes, a light drizzle became a heavy downpour that quickly drenched the field and its occupants. The drill lasted for over 20 minutes before students were able to return to their classrooms and continue the rest of the school day, though most were quite drenched by the ill timed rain.

The fire may have also revealed problems with evacuation procedures as some classes were slow to respond. “It’s a good lesson to take. I heard stories of some classes that didn’t go out to the fire drill so I guess this is [an] important lesson in not ignoring fire drills,” said Mao.