Valley College shut-down today due to a massive cloud of ash and smoke from the nearby Kegel Canyon Fire.
High winds blew huge clouds toward the campus and the surrounding area dropping dust and ash onto students and buildings, prompting President Erika Endrijonas to close the campus.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), along with several other health officials, issued a severe air quality warning. The warning, along with the visible dust and smell of smoke, sparked concern for Endrijonas. After monitoring the situation and talking to the chancellor of LACCD, Endrijonas made her decision.
“Based on that and the fact that Pinter Construction had sent all their workers home, and the air quality seemed to be deteriorating that, was when I decided to close the campus,” said Endijonas.
Closing the campus also meant cancelling some major events. The Valley Glen Neighborhood Association was scheduled to meet on Campus at 7.pm., with the president as a guest speaker. The closure also quashed the Winter Wonderland Banquet, a seasonal event celebrating the faulty and staff.
Getting the word out about the closure was quick due to the use of social media and the Blackboard Connect System. It sent emails and text messages to students, faculty, and staff letting them know that the campus was closed at around 12:15p.m.
Some students also found out through messengers who went room to room letting professors know about the campus shut-down.
“A lady just came in and had a big sign,” said Heymie Vidaurre who was in her math class when she learned about the campus closing.
Vidaurre lives in the Sylmar area with her husband and is concerned about the close proximity of the fire to her home. She has also been affected by other recent fires in the area.
The Health Center gave away free surgical face masks to students who came by. Many students could be seen waiting for their rides or walking to parking lots or bus stops while wearing the errant surgical mask.
“I just saw some guy walking by [wearing one],” said Vidaurre, who was also wearing one herself.
Dealing with the blaze has been problematic for firefighters as the high winds have pushed it to burn across 4000 acres since it began early Tuesday morning.
According to reports from the L.A. Times and ABC7 News, the fire began around 4a.m. near Gold Creek but quickly spread. Currently the fire is not contained and over 700 firefighters from several different groups are battling the blaze.
Endrijonas is cautious but optimist. She insists that todays closure should not affect finals or further disrupt the hectic end of the year schedule, and that the school should reopen tomorrow.
“And hopefully tomorrow things will have calmed down,we’re assuming we’re open tomorrow, it’s just for right now.”