At 3:15 a.m. and at 3:32 a.m. on Sunday morning, fires were discovered in Sage and Mission Park. The persons responsible for setting the fires have not been found, but Security is conducting an investigation to try to reconstruct the movements of people who were entering the dorms when the two fires occurred to find out more about the incidents.
According to Jean Thorndike, director of campus safety, the cause of the Sage alarm was a videocassette tape that had been placed in a microwave and subsequently melted. The smoke caused by melting the cassette caused a 45-minute-long evacuation of the dorm.
Students were ushered into Baxter where they could stay out of the cold, according to plans used by Security if students will be outside for an extended period, said Dave Boyer, associate director of Security.
The cause of the long delay before students returned to Sage was a concern that noxious fumes may have spread as a result of the plastic melting and burning, Boyer said. Sage was ventilated with fans before students reentered around 4:00 a.m.
The security dispatcher received a call at 3:32 a.m. about a book found smoldering in the Mission lobby. Security officers also found a smoldering trash barrel by the Dennett laundry room, as well as scattered burned papers that had been thrown onto clothing in the laundry room.
“Basically we haven’t tied the two [events] together,” Boyer said. He said that there are currently no leads and he has not ruled out the possibility that the person who set the fires is not a student.
“It’s very possible that students did that. . .but we’ve had card-access issues [as well].” He said that Security is currently reviewing access records for both Sage and Mission to try and determine which students were entering or leaving the buildings at the time the fires were reported. Card access records are stored in a database and are only accessed when a crime occurs.
If a student is found to have caused the fires, disciplinary action is at the discretion of the deans. “Ultimately, [punishment] would be up to the deans,” Boyer said. “But I would strongly support prosecution for arson in the local courts. It’s a very, very serious offense.”