Palomar College Police Department (PCPD) increased patrol around campus after five fires occurred during the first two weeks of the spring semester. All being started in bathrooms, the fires occurred over the course of five different days in four different buildings on the main campus in San Marcos.
Although the increase of patrol in and around bathrooms started after the third fire, campus police were clearly visible in the MD building as patrols were on every floor of the building with one officer driving a Segway throughout the building.
In an email response from Palomar College’s Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs Laura Gropen s that they have increased patrols throughout the campus in specific areas, which is just standard procedure.
The following is a day by day account according to alerts sent out by Palomar officials as to when the PCPD received notice of the fires and causes:
• 9:35 a.m. on Jan.14 in the men’s restroom of the P building. Cause was a box of toilet seat covers being set on fire.
• 10:45 a.m. on Jan. 15 in the men’s restroom on the second floor of the Multi-Disciplinary building. Cause was a box of toilet seat covers being set on fire.
• 11:12 a.m. on Jan.16 in the handicap restroom of the Student Union building. There is no cause of fire.
• 8:57 a.m. on Jan. 21 in the men’s restroom of the P building. Cause was a box of toilet seat covers being set on fire. • 11:20 a.m. on Jan. 22 men’s restroom in the E building. There is no cause of fire.
Both Vice-President of Student Affairs Adrian Gonzales and Gropen are unaware as to how the first two fires were extinguished, but Gonzales believes that a faculty member put the first one out with a fire extinguisher and witnesses believe that the second was put out by one of the first responding police officers who had a fire extinguisher with him.
The third fire appears that it might have extinguished itself in the trash can and there is no information on the how the fourth and fifth fires were put out. No injuries were reported in all five incidents and besides the toilet seat covers, the only property damage was a trash can that melted during the third fire. With the assistance of the PCPD, Gonzales stated that the San Marcos Fire Department is conducting the investigation.
San Marcos Fire Department could not be reached for comment. However, the Sheriff’s Bomb/Arson Unit released the following statement, “The Sheriff’s Bomb/Arson Unit is aware of the suspicious fires at Palomar College. We will be meeting and working with school officials and San Marcos Fire to resolve this matter.”
According to Gropen and Gonzales, there is no information on the suspect or suspects or if the fires are related, however in the alert concerning the third fire, it stated that it is being investigated with the possibility of being related to the previous fire incidents.
Students, faculty and staff are asked to report any suspicious activity in or around the restrooms to police at 760-744-1150 ext. 2289 or 760-891-7273.
“There are things that we have done to try and promote good safety on campus, we need the help of the students to also be vigilant and to help us make a safe environment,” Gonzales said. According to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, a reward of up to a $1,000 is being offered for any information that leads to an arrest. They can call Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line 888-580-8477.