Student who died after blaze suspected in Saddleback College fire

A fire that scorched a lecture hall at Saddleback College may have been started by the student who ultimately died from the blaze, authorities said Tuesday.

The fire broke out about 6:30 a.m. Monday in a third-floor auditorium in the college’s Business/General Studies building, school officials said. As firefighters battled the flames, which scorched much of the classroom’s interior, they found a 21-year-old male student unconscious on the floor, said school spokeswoman Jennie McCue.

Asked if the student was behind the fire, Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Jon Muir responded, “My suspicion is yes.”

Investigators concluded that a liquid accelerant was used in the fire, Muir said.


The student was burned head to toe, was not breathing and had no pulse, authorities said. He was revived and taken to a nearby trauma center, where he was stabilized, then airlifted to a burn center in Santa Ana, Muir said. He died Monday night.

It’s unclear if the student deliberately killed himself or was overwhelmed by the blaze, Muir said.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Muir said. “If this guy is in fact the person who started the fire, we’re waiting to hear based on his family life if he had any problems.”

The Orange County coroner declined to release the student’s identity and referred comments to OCFA.

The student’s connection to the classroom became clear once he was identified Tuesday, officials said. He was scheduled to be there for a social psychology class 30 minutes after the fire started, McCue said. The student had a 3.23 grade-point average and had been attending the school for two years, she said.

The blaze caused $200,000 in damage to the building and burned another $200,000 worth of equipment and material, Muir said.


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Triple-digit temps expected in valleys; Tuesday hottest day of week