Arson fire killed Saddleback College student, officials say

A fire that killed a student in a Saddleback College classroom in Orange County was set deliberately, 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 lying unconscious on the floor, said school spokeswoman Jennie McCue.

The student was burned head to toe, was not breathing and had no pulse, authorities said. He was revived and rushed to a nearby trauma center, where he was stabilized, then airlifted to a burn center in Santa Ana, said Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Jon Muir.


The student died Monday night; his name was not immediately released.

Arson investigators concluded the fire was started deliberately and fueled by a liquid accelerant, Muir said.

Authorities were trying to determine whether the student deliberately or accidentally set himself on fire or whether he’s the victim of someone else’s arson.

“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 fire occurred about an hour before class was scheduled to begin there, McCue said. The entire building was shut down Monday, and classes in the top two floors were relocated Tuesday, 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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