Flames scorched six rooms of the Santa Rosa Residence Hall on Friday, after several smoldering hookah coals allegedly left on a second-story windowsill kindled the blaze.
At approximately 3 a.m., ashes from the hookah drifted down and ignited piles of fallen pine needles. As the fire climbed up the side of the building, alarms sounded and 400 students were forced out into the night.
Rooms closest to the source of the fire were completely gutted, while many other rooms suffered broken windows and melted curtains.
After four hours the situation was controlled and the evacuated students of Santa Rosa Hall were permitted to reenter the building. Two students reportedly received medical attention as a result of the fire, although the Daily Nexus could not confirm this as of press time. All Resident Assistants were ordered by the UCSB Resident Hall Association not to comment on the details of the fire.
Greg Goodwin said he left the hookah in question on his windowsill. The first-year business economics major did not admit to starting the fire, but said it was possible the coals from his hookah session ignited the blaze.
“I was fucking smoking hookah in our room and we went to bed an hour before it happened,” Goodwin said. “We put the ashes [from the hookah] on the windowsill. … We’ve done it before. Everything seemed fine and forty minutes later, we woke up to smoke.”
According to the university Residence Hall contract, the possession of hookahs, hookah tobacco and hookah coals are prohibited in all UCSB Residence Halls. Although Goodwin said police questioned him, he has not been charged with any crimes.
Yesterday, Goodwin’s Facebook status read, “Greg definitively has left a final mark on Santa Rosa. Proud of it, too!” In response to a question regarding the status, Goodwin said he and his friends were merely attempting to be optimistic about the situation.
“I really am honestly sorry. It was me and a bunch of buddies, looking at it from the glass half full,” Goodwin said. “I wrote it with a bunch of friends, and said screw that, that’s how I feel.”
Later in the interview, Goodwin admitted he might have been responsible for the fire, but said he deeply regretted his actions.
“Yeah, there was a chance that I did it,” Goodwin said. “And I am so freaking sorry if I did. It’s the biggest mistake that I’ve ever made in my life. … It was like the most unlucky thing ever.”
Kelsey Greenberg, a first-year communications major, said she was present when the fire took place, although the RHA instructed her not to comment to reporters.
“We looked out of our room to see a flame outside our window,” Greenberg said. “We were all taken outside and people were really freaked out because usually it’s a false alarm. [The RAs] have been told by the university not to talk. … The university is all hush-hush about this whole thing.”
According to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young, the university has not reached any decisions regarding disciplinary actions in this situation.
“That case has not made it to us yet in terms of judgments,” Young said. “With personal matters, even if we had made decisions, I could not share those.”
Liesbeth Workman, a first-year chemistry major, said she initially dismissed the fire alarm, not realizing the severity of the situation.
“Most of us woke up and were like, ‘who burned the popcorn?’,” Workman said. “We all felt that the firefighters took a long time, but it really was only about 15 minutes. We did not get to see them put out the fire. Someone also had a huge asthma attack.”
Tilden Roettger, an undeclared first-year student, said he was also forced to vacate the burning building.
“I walked out of my room and the hall was filled with smoke,” Roettger said. “They made us evacuate and from outside you could see the crazy flames and sparks jumping all over the side of the building.”
In the meantime, Roettger said RAs divided the residents of Santa Rosa Hall and instructed them to sleep in the Anacapa and Santa Cruz formal lounges until students could safely reenter the building.
Garrett Goto, whose room was one of the six severely damaged by the blaze, said residents had the opportunity to fill out forms documenting damaged possessions.
“They gave us the option to fill out an insurance claim,” Goto said. “I doubt anyone will get any money back though.”
According to Goto, a first-year hydrology major, he and the other residents of the six rooms were required to relocate.
“They made us move rooms because ours are damaged and covered in ash,” Goto said. “But they were really nice about the whole thing. They gave us all care packages with shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and a bunch of things we needed because we couldn’t get to our rooms.”
Kelly Lawrence, Santa Rosa Hall president and first-year business economics major, said she had heard rumors regarding the origins of the fire.
“Allegedly, a hookah coal fell from the window onto some brush and caught it on fire,” Lawrence said. “There was just a lot of smoke.”
Greedly Harris, Assistant Resident Director of Santa Rosa Hall, declined to comment on the events that transpired on Friday night, citing the constraints of his contract and RHA orders to maintain media silence.
“We have been told by our supervisors not to give statements,” Harris said. “I don’t want to give you information when we’re not allowed to.”