A fire at the University Art Museum Tuesday scorched a wall and forced students out of nearby classrooms.
Fire alarms started ringing at approximately 4:10 p.m. yesterday when a blaze began in the main gallery of the museum. The fire was caused by a hot halogen bulb that fell from a lighting fixture onto an art exhibit.
The exhibit, which consisted of a three-by-one foot box that displayed stage lighting equipment, was completely destroyed. The fire burned for only one or two minutes before assistant exhibition designer Rollin Fortier put it out with an extinguisher, but the ear-splitting alarms initiated the evacuation of classrooms in the nearby Arts Building.
Fortier and another museum employee were the only people inside the museum, which is closed Tuesdays. Fortier said he was unsure if the museum would be open Wednesday.
“It depends on the smoke damage,” Fortier said. “There is a blackened spot on the wall about three or four feet in diameter.”
Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. Capt. Wes Herman said the wall was in need of serious repair and estimated the fire caused between $2,000 and 5,000 in damage. He added that a projector hanging above the fire might be damaged as well.
“Those halogen bulbs burn at 1,100 degrees,” Herman said. “It only takes a split second of contact with a drape, a towel, anything combustible.”
Herman said further damage to the building was prevented because the building’s smoke detectors and alarms alerted Fortier to the problem before the fire never got hot enough to activate the building’s sprinklers.
Firefighters set up large fans to blow smoke out of the building and had the alarms deactivated by 4:30, allowing students to return to classes in the Arts Building.