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Fire death at Saddleback College was a suicide, O.C. coroner says

A student who died of burns suffered during a fire inside a Saddleback College classroom committed suicide, the Orange County Coroner concluded.

Jacob Mathews, 21, of Lake Forest, died after a fire he started July 8 in a third-floor auditorium in the community college’s Business/General Studies building. The fire broke out about 6:30 a.m. and Mathews was scheduled to attend a social psychology class there about half an hour later, school officials said.

Firefighters found Mathews lying unconscious and without a pulse inside the classroom, where they battled flames that caused an estimated $400,000 in damage. Investigators said Mathews used a liquid to fuel the fire faster and ignited himself.

Mathews was rushed to a burn center in Santa Ana, where he died hours later. Classes were temporarily relocated after the blaze.

The school released a statement on the death Sunday.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the victim’s family and we are honoring their right to privacy during this devastating time. Saddleback College administration, faculty, and staff are cooperating fully with the ongoing criminal investigation.”

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Joseph.serna@latimes.com

@josephserna

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