Shortly after 4 p.m. on Nov. 18, the UCI Police Department received a call reporting a fire at the Palo Verde apartment complex.
Upon arriving on the scene, officers realized that the thick black smoke was actually coming from the 6200 building of Verano Place, which houses married students at UCI.
Sgt. Eladio Acuna ran the short distance from Palo Verde to Verano Place and came across about 40 firefighters from the Newport Beach and Laguna Beach Fire Departments who were attempting to put out the fire.
According to Acuna, who was making sure there were no residents inside the building, he encountered a male resident trying to get into the apartment that was on fire.
After escorting the resident to safety, Acuna went back toward the building to search for more residents but was forced to turn back because of the heat.
‘I only made it to the third or fourth step,’ Acuna said. ‘Then it got too hot and I turned back.’
Although there were no visible flames, black smoke could be seen pouring out from both the front and back windows of the apartment.
Carol Laney, a resident in a nearby building, described the scene.
‘There was thick black smoke,’ Laney said. ‘It was coming out of the front window and apparently the back window too. Somebody over at Palo Verde saw it and called it in.’
There was considerable damage to the apartment where the fire originated. According to one firefighter on the scene, the residents living in the apartment will not be able to resume living there anytime soon.
‘[The fire] was pretty big,’ the firefighter said. ‘I don’t know the exact dollar amount [of damages], but they won’t be sleeping there tonight.’
Damage to the surrounding apartments was not severe. According to a resident from a neighboring apartment, residents who had been evacuated were told they could return to their apartments in as little as a few hours.
According to Steve Miller, an Orange County Fire Authority spokesman, there were no injuries sustained in the fire.
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. However, according to both Laney and Acuna, the fire was rumored to have been caused by a candle that was left burning. The OCFA is expected to release an official report within the next two weeks.
Both the residents and UCIPD Public Information Officer Jim Cohen could not be reached for comment by press time.
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