Candles Caused Smoky Mattress Fire at USC Dorm: LAFD

USC students knee deep in final exams evacuated a dormitory where a mattress caught fire Sunday night.

The fire, quickly extinguished by the Los Angeles Fire Department, left 12 people temporarily displaced and caused $2,500 in damage, more than half to the structure itself, according to a fire spokesman.

No one was injured when the fire broke out at about 11:30 p.m. but about 60 people evacuated the building in the 600 block of W. 35th Street, fire and school officials said.

"I tried to take a Snapchat selfie with the alarm in the background because I thought it was a fire drill," said Ellie Vachuska, who was working out at the time and "yanked off" an elliptical by a security guard.

Twelve students were relocated to other housing locations, according to USC Dept. of Public Safety Deputy Chief David Carlisle. The other students were allowed back into the residence at 12:30 p.m.

Fire investigators determined that candles that were briefly left unattended caused the mattress fire in a room on the third floor, fire officials said. Fire sprinklers held the smoky fire in check before 20 firefighters put out the fire entirely.

"If you're going to use candles, be very, very careful as to how close those candles, or open flame, are going to be to anything that could catch fire," Battalion Chief Jamie Moore said.

Students said they got the message and would start taking the school rule against candle use in the dorms more seriously.

"We have a candle in our room," Vachuska said. "We never think to light it. Gonna throw that out!"

 The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.

Contact Us