Cal Poly employees evacuated The Avenue, 19 Metro Station and Sandwich Factory campus restaurants, as well as the Pre-Rec center Tuesday afternoon due to a small fire at the Chick-fil-A unit in The Avenue.
No injuries were reported from the fire, but Cal Poly Corporation Marketing and Public Relations director Yukie Nishinaga said she did not know how much property damage the fire caused.
The fire started at approximately 11:40 a.m., when one of the oil fryers at Chick-fil-A caught on fire, Nishinaga said.
According to a Campus Dining employee who was working at Chick-fil-A when the fire started, the manager of The Avenue, Saul Rios, attempted to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher immediately after it started.
“(Rios) had one fire extinguisher going at the fire, and he was calling for another one,” the employee said. “He pulled out the greaser, and then, there was another fire extinguisher he took. I don’t know if anything else could have caught on fire, but if something else had caught on fire, his life could have been on the line.”
The employee said after Rios was unsuccessful in putting out the fire, Rios pulled the fire alarm inside the building. According to the employee, people eating inside The Avenue were slow to respond, and workers at The Avenue had to go through the restaurant and tell them to leave.
“Most of them didn’t really know what was going on,” the employee said. “But it wasn’t too bad.”
University Police Department (UPD) chief Bill Watton said the fire was contained by the time the San Luis Obispo city fire department arrived.
City fire marshall Rodger Maggio said the damage was contained to one of the fryers. Because Cal Poly is on-state property, government investigators will inspect the restaurant today to determine the cause of the fire, he said.
As of press time, the cause had not been determined.
“We don’t know for sure if it was an electrical problem or a problem with the unit,” Maggio said.
Watton said UPD responds to all fire alarms on campus, but will immediately call the San Luis Obispo fire department if an alarm is pulled.
Damage to the facility was minimal. After inspecting the restaurant, Maggio said it was primarily just scorch marks and residue from the fire extinguisher that remained near the fryer.
Maggio also said Campus Dining employees handled the situation well.
“Everybody kept their head,” he said. “They did what they needed to do to make sure everyone was safe.”
Sandwich Factory, 19 Metro Station and the Pre-Rec center, located in building 19, were evacuated due to their proximity to The Avenue and the buildings’ connections.
Mike Lowe, a supervisor at 19 Metro Station, said between 300 and 400 individuals were evacuated from the buildings. He said students remained calm during the evacuation.
“It was actually pretty casual from what I could see,” he said.
Brad Kunisaki, an industrial technology senior, said the El Corral Bookstore stock room was also evacuated because of an underground connection to The Avenue.
Evacuees gathered on Mott Lawn across from the restaurant, where curious spectators joined them.
Kunisaki said when he arrived at the lawn, he could see signs of the fire.
“We saw some smoke coming out of ‘The Ave.,’” he said.
Kunisaki said El Corral practiced fire drills during the summer, and Tuesday’s incident seemed similar to them.
“Everone in the bookstore kind of assumed it was a fire drill,” he said.
The Avenue was closed immediately after the fire, but reopened by 3 p.m. after cleaning was finished. Nishinaga said Chick-fil-A was not reopened.
“We’re making sure everything is working right,” Nishinaga said. “We wouldn’t have opened the doors if it wasn’t safe. It was mainly just cleaning and getting all the food re-cooked and getting everything ready.”