Smoke and ash from wildfire close colleges

Rodrigo Azurmendi, Tyler Cole and Aaron Stein-Chester

Saddleback and Irvine Valley College were forced to close due to a fire that was deliberately set at approximately 6 p.m. on Oct. 21. Ash and dust coming from the Santiago Canyon fire are affecting several areas of Southern California.

IVC and Saddleback were officially shut down by 3 p.m. Both campuses were successfully evacuated within minutes.

“The decision was made at 1 p.m. and we decided to have closure at 2 p.m. so that we could have an orderly evacuation,” President of IVC Glenn Roquemore said. “[The evacuation] went extremely well.”

Some students at IVC arrived late to find their classmates leaving en masse.

“I got here at 1:50 p.m.,” William Lin, 24, biomedical engineering said. “I was going to physics and going to do homework beforehand. It smelled really bad. It’s like the end of the world. The atmosphere was just weird.”

According to Orange County Sheriff spokesman Jim Amormino, as of 11 a.m. there were 8,800 acres burned. The fire was 30 percent contained and over 500 firemen were on duty from stations throughout the county.

Students acknowledged the precarious conditions.

“It’s been bad throughout the day,” Ash Coleman, 21, business. “Teachers said they needed to evacuate due to safety reasons.”

Other students suffered the consequences of fallout from the fire that spread throughout the night.

“I woke up this morning and [ash] was all over my front yard,” Michael Rodriguez, 21, business. “There was a huge cloud of brown. I was driving on the [Interstate] 5 last night and it looked like a volcano.”

At Saddleback, students also found their classrooms empty.

“I was supposed to go tutoring,” Dru Peebles, 19, communications. “I couldn’t run track either because that was cancelled too.”

Questions still remain about whether class will be resumed tomorrow.

“It’s very hard to tell,” Roquemore said. “It’s an air quality issue and so if we’re clear in the morning we’ll open, but if it’s very dense and thick, like it is now then we’ll reconsider.”

The fires caused several streets to be shut down. Irvine Boulevard and Bake Parkway in Lake Forest were closed for several miles.

Kelsey Avers contributed to this report.