A resident of Southernwood Hall, building 5 at the CSUN dormitories, was hospitalized on Sunday with flesh burns to his hands and fingers after a fire started on his balcony.
Captain Paul Steffen, who wasn’t at the scene, said the station journal shows Fire Department 70, located at Reseda Boulevard and Lassen Street, responded to a structure fire at the Southernwood Hall at 9:17 p.m. A resident who suffered burns after he tried to light a jack-o’-lantern carving with Coleman fuel was subsequently transported to the Northridge Hospital.
“Fire set off the sprinklers on the balcony,” Steffen said, citing the journal entry. “We did not have to use the hose to put it out.”
The Los Angeles Arson unit has been notified of the incident. Steffen said the unit is usually notified about a fire if there are any burn victims involved.
The balcony sustained minor damage to the floor and the wall, said Christina Villalobos, special assistant to the chief of police and community relations officer.
“Residents of the apartment were offered another space, but they decided to stay because the damage was only minor,” Villalobos said.
When police officers arrived at the scene of the fire, they reported seeing smoke coming out of the building, Villalobos said. Officers entered the apartment after residents didn’t respond to knocking on the door. It’s not known whether occupants were preoccupied with the person who sustained burns or simply didn’t hear police officers.
“Normally, what we get in housing with alarm activation is something related to cooking,” Villalobos said.
Some of the building’s residents who had to evacuate to the adjacent parking lot did not realize that there was an actual fire, until they saw smoke and flames coming out of the balcony on the third floor, which faces the CSUN track.
“I was working on my personal statement for graduate school when the alarm went off,” Joseph Makahluf, senior history major, said.
“I went out thinking it was just a false alarm, like it has happened so many times before. I came outside on the first floor, looked up and the balcony on the third floor had flames coming out of it,” Makaluf said.
The firefighters and police responded to the fire quickly, Makahluf said. “No one was out here, but a couple of minutes later the fire department came with the police department.
Twenty minutes after the firefighters arrived, Makahluf along with other residents of building 5, was still standing in the parking lot with his backpack waiting to be let back into the building. Others sat on the curb in their pajamas.
“It was an interesting night,” Makahluf said. “This was a first time in three and a half years that there’s been an actual fire.”
Senior recreation management major Yolanda Baker, who also had to evacuate the building, said she didn’t expect to see a real fire when she heard the alarm.
“I was just in my room, talking to my sister and I heard the alarm go off,” Baker said. “I came downstairs and saw the third floor balcony on fire.”
When the fire began, residents didn’t immediately rush out of the building.
“When I came out, there was nobody in the hallway,” Baker said. “Then as I was going toward the stairs, I saw people walking outside.”
Baker said she didn’t become nervous when she heard the alarm because they’re a common occurrence at the dormitories.
“I just got all of my stuff, put on my coat and came outside,” Baker said.
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