Welding sparks cause construction site fire


A construction worker welds a metal beam at the Pool and Classroom Building construction site Thursday, Aug. 29. Welding was the cause of a small fire on the building's second floor on the second day of the fall semester. Ryan Farrell/The Union

Construction workers extinguished the fire that occurred on the second floor of the Pool and Classroom Building construction site on Tuesday, Aug. 27 after being alerted by students and faculty, a construction official said.

A group of El Camino College students and faculty smelled smoke coming from the construction site, which sits adjacent to the Student Activities Center, and alerted two construction workers with Tilden-Coil Constructors Inc.; they used a fire extinguisher to put out the smoldering plastic insulation, President of Tilden-Coil Constructors Inc. Brian Jaramillo said.

“Debris started to burn, students and staff noticed and [construction workers] Syed Jafri and Luis Bautista put the fire out with an extinguisher,” Jaramillo said.

Hot drips of molten metal from welding, known as slag, landed on plastic insulation, causing it to burn and release smoke, Executive Director of Facilities and Planning Services Jorge Gutierrez said.

“Welding sparks fell and hit plastic that caught on fire. There was no structural damage, just melted plastic,” Gutierrez said.

After welding, company safety procedures require construction workers to remain on-site for 30 minutes to verify that slag or sparks do not cause a fire at the construction site, Jaramillo said.

The smell of smoke was reported to construction workers after they had already waited the mandatory 30 minutes, Jaramillo added.

When alerted, construction workers extinguished the fire before the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACFD) arrived on scene and no injuries were reported, LACFD Captain Ernie Lopez said.

The building was in no danger of burning down since it’s composed of concrete, metal studs and drywall, which are non-combustible materials, Jaramillo said.

Robert Brobst, assistant director of Facilities and Planning Services, said the fire was unrelated to the power outage that occurred the same day.

“The circuit that controls the campus went down. There was no loss of equipment, just power,” Brobst said.

Gutierrez said that he is still confident in the safety procedures of Tilden-Coil after the construction site fire.

“It didn’t impact or injure anyone and that’s most important,” Gutierrez said. “My highest priority is human life.”