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Power surge sparked Cal Poly residence hall fire, investigators find

A power surge sparked a fire Sunday afternoon in a room in a Cal Poly residence hall, forcing 10 students to find alternate housing, an investigation found Monday.

Although initial reports indicated the fire in Sequoia Hall might have been started by contraband electrical equipment, State Fire Marshal investigators determined that the blaze occurred after a short in a circuit breaker that controlled four rooms in the residence hall, according to a university news release.

An electrician reset the breaker, resulting in a power surge that ignited a fire in an electrical outlet, the release said.

Cal Poly’s University Police Department received word of the fire at 3:53 p.m. Sunday, the release said.

Police and crews from the San Luis Obispo Fire Department arrived on the scene to discover residents had already turned fire extinguishers on the blaze, the university said.

According to San Luis Obispo City Fire Battalion Chief Neal Berryman, firefighters partly extinguished a burning mattress before pushing it out the room’s window, allowing them to fully extinguish the flames.

As many as 200 students living in the hall were evacuated while police and firefighters made sure the fire was out. Most of the residents were allowed back inside about 90 minutes later.

Cal Poly housing officials worked Sunday to relocate 10 students living in the room where the fire broke out and the three rooms surrounding it. No one was reported injured.

Electricity is gradually being restored to affected areas, the release said, as Cal Poly facilities crews examine the electrical infrastructure of the campus residence halls along Grand Avenue to identify and correct weak spots.

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