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Brush fire at Cal Poly forces evacuations, threatens homes

Fire crews battle Poly Fire in San Luis Obispo

A brush fire in the hills above Cal Poly burned at least 97 acres and forced evacuations from dorms and nearby homes in San Luis Obispo on Tuesday, September 26, 2017.
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A brush fire in the hills above Cal Poly burned at least 97 acres and forced evacuations from dorms and nearby homes in San Luis Obispo on Tuesday, September 26, 2017.

A fast-burning brush fire broke out on Cal Poly’s campus Tuesday afternoon, forcing temporary evacuations for students and nearby residents as the fire stretched across the hillside below the landmark P.

Temporary evacuations were ordered for the Sierra Madre and Yosemite residence halls, as well as homes along Slack Street. Evacuation warnings also had been issued for Miossi Road and Cuesta Park areas.

Cal Fire spokesman Chris Elms said officials were working to get evacuated students back into their housing late Tuesday evening. They gathered in groups on Grand Avenue near the parking structure waiting for the all-clear while the sound of fire alarms rang from the buildings.

By 7 p.m., the fire had burned 97 acres, and was 20 percent contained.

A collection of videos show the wildfire and heavy smoke at Cal Poly on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. The fire prompted evacuations of two dorms on campus, as well as a nearby residential area.

Watching the flames

The Grand Avenue entrance to Cal Poly’s campus was bustling with students and public safety officials soon after the fire started.

Students on bicycles and on foot stopped to watch the flames burning in the hillsides east of campus and to take photos with their phones.

Shelby Robinett, a second-year environmental management student, kept an eye on the fire from Grand Avenue.

She said she lives at Poly Canyon Village and saw the fire on Snapchat.

A vegetation fire broke out on the hillside near the Cal Poly P Sept. 26, 2017, prompting student evacuations at the Sierra Madre and Yosemite dorms. Student Rachel Foote caught this footage of the smoke from the Rec Center on campus.

“I like watching natural disasters,” she said. “But it’s really unfortunate for the (Sierra Madre) Tower kids.”

At Cuesta Park Animal Hospital on the other side of the hill, Dr. Jay Longabach watched helicopters drop water on the flames as he was leaving work for the day.

“Those guys up there are probably going to spend the night up there,” he said, gesturing toward the firefighters working on the hillside.

Longabach said the last time he had to evacuate animals from his kennels was back in the 1980s, when flames scorched the same area.

“Right here, it’s not bad,” he said.

Students evacuate

San Luis Obispo police evacuated the entire east side of Slack Street, sending students and residents living just off campus to hurriedly pack.

Some grabbed bedding, while one student walked down Slack Street carrying a desktop computer hard drive.

We’re just like, ‘Where are we going to live for the rest of our senior year?’

Ally Yturralde, Cal Poly student

Sam Foucar, a fourth-year child development major, prepared to evacuate from her Slack Street home with her two roommates.

“I’m not super hyped about my stuff being inside,” she said. “But (the fire) is moving, so I think it’ll be OK.”

Foucar’s roommate, Ally Yturralde, also a fourth-year child development student, said she was “just nervous.”

“I’m just hoping our house doesn’t actually burn down,” she said.

“We’re just like, ‘Where are we going to live for the rest of our senior year?’ ”

As evacuating students drove away, police asked onlookers to move onto Graves Street.

Nicole Linman, a fourth-year math major who lives on Graves Street, called the fire “kind of crazy” and “pretty scary.”

“I’m honestly packed and ready to go for a week,” she said.

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