Lab fire leads to building evacuation; 'minimal' damage and no injuries reported

A fire that sparked in a chemistry lab on the third floor of UCSC's Physical Sciences Building this afternoon was quickly extinguished by campus fire crews. The fire, contained to the lab of origin, resulted in the evacuation of between 100 and 200 students, faculty, and staff shortly after 2 p.m.

Two graduate students were working in the lab of chemistry professor Rebecca Braslau when the fire ignited. Investigators who interviewed the students said a half-full bottle of the solvent Hexane caught fire. Neither of the students was injured, and no other injuries were reported.

Because of the size of the four-story building and the potential for many building occupants, a number of local fire departments were also summoned to Science Hill. The response units included firefighters from Santa Cruz, Central Fire District, Scotts Valley, and Felton. Also included in the response were members of the county-wide hazardous materials team, who monitored the building's air quality before declaring it safe for reentry at 4:15 p.m.

UCSC Fire personnel said the fire was small enough and contained quickly enough that the building's sprinkler system was not activated. They described the damage to Braslau's lab as "minimal."

The Physical Sciences Building contains research labs, first-floor lecture halls, and offices. While fire crews were extinguishing the fire inside the building, transportation on campus was rerouted around Science Hill.