Fire in the theater is the second in a year

Thankfully nobody was seriously hurt

Julian Reyes, Times staff

Joeanna Lopez, Times Staff

On April 23 there was a fire in the theater.

Facilities manager, Joe Andrade was treated for smoke inhalation and no other injuries were reported.

Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Pratt communicated via email in which Andrade is recognized, “for his quick actions that put his own safety at risk, but prevented much more damage and possibly injuries.”

Anita Reyes is in her second semester with SJCC’s theater department and was instructing her class while her students were on stage reciting their monologues.

“You don’t believe it until it happens to you,” said Ashly Fahy, 21, a North Carolina native back in school for her first semester at SJCC following a four-year hiatus after dropping out of high school.

The fire alarms sounding off were thought to be “only alarms” and not initially taken “too seriously” until the smoke was smelled.

Reyes had her class evacuate through the Café because the normal evacuation exit, facing Moorpark, is where the smoke was coming from.

Itzel Gomez, a KJ’s Café barista said she also saw smoke emerge from under the doors nearest the coffee and said she, “returned to the café to help,” even after clocking out.

“I was telling the students eating in the café they shouldn’t stay but instead get out because there was a fire,” Reyes said.

Fahy said there were some students, “dilly dallying,” and she urged them to get out. Not a first-timer, Fahy said her first evacuation was in North Carolina at 8 years old and the cause was a tornado.

“The heat of the fire could almost be felt coming through,” Fahy said of the theater fire pointing, to the double doors facing Moorpark.

Reyes calls the cause of the fire, “a human error.”

The floor lights in the theater had gel plastics left on them that are used for color effects. Glass material color pieces are also typically used.

Amber McCall, spring dance program, “Stories that MOVE” producer and theater faculty says, “The gel pieces are fine to use.”

This is not the first instance in which McCall and her dance performance students have dealt with a fire in the theater and being displaced, it is the third.

Angelique Canas, 20, SJCC dance major closes her eyes as she throws her head back and says of her experiences, “It’s the third show!”

In one instance, the Camp Fire caused a district wide closure which canceled the performance hours before taking place that evening. The performance was rescheduled for two weeks later and did not take place in the theater.

Former adjunct theater instructor of 3 years, Leyla Modirzadeh and producer of last spring’s program, “Too Much light Makes the Baby GO Blind,” said via email, “Someone said that a person was sleeping down in the theater basement and somehow caused it.”

That show was later performed in the Art Gallery.

“As I was driving away I saw the firetrucks near the theater and I knew there was a fire again,” McCall said she got home on April 23 to the confirmation via text message from her Dean.

Spring program, “Stories that MOVE,” scheduled for May 2-4 happened instead on May 1, 2 and 3 as the performance could not be held in the SJCC theater but took place at alternate locations: Evergreen Valley College VPA Theater and the dance studio at SJCC in classroom A206 on May 3.

“The venue did not change the choreography at all. Maybe it effected the spacing a little but that always changes once you get into any new space,” said McCall after opening night.

EVC Theater instructor, John Kaufmann said via email correspondence, “We are happy that we can support SJCC with a venue for their dance performance!”

Kaufmann said that the VPA theater has, “great maintenance personnel, I’m not sure of their schedule, but I know that they work to keep everything up to code.”

Kaufmann serves as an emergency evacuation volunteer in the building and “is charged with helping to sweep people out in case of an emergency.”

“I firmly believe that in order to operate a unique space, like a theater it needs proper management and upkeep. A theater typically requires a master electrician and technical director. They are there to oversee all of the technical aspects of the theater and make sure it is used properly and safely,” said McCall.

“In addition, most dance or theater productions need a lighting designer, costume designer, and possibly a scenic designer …” McCall about the specific needs of the theater, “My sincere hope, once the theater is renovated, is that the college realizes the critical importance of a Theater Technical Director and hires one to fulfill weekly hours and an ongoing need to keep the theater safe and functioning properly,” said McCall.

SJCC Humanities division dean, Ilder Lopez Betancourt could not be reached for comment on the fire or when the theater will be in use again.