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Fire Forces More Than 160 to Flee Fullerton Building

April 19, 1996|GEOFF BOUCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FULLERTON — A three-alarm fire Thursday quickly spread through the air conditioning system of a two-story building, gutting several offices and forcing the evacuation of more than 160 people.

The lunch-hour blaze filled the 50,000-square-foot office building at 690 Langsdorf Drive with smoke and cut electricity to the site's 25 tenants, which include legal and health professionals, authorities said.

There were no injuries reported and the cause of the fire is under investigation. Fullerton Police Sgt. Glenn Deveny said the blaze may have begun within the building's air conditioning machinery.

As building employees and curious students from the neighboring Cal State Fullerton campus watched, firefighters contained the blaze within 45 minutes. But authorities closed the building for the day to ensure the ducts were completely clear of flames.

Some tenants said no fire alarm sounded during the crisis. Clinical psychologist Mercedes Galante said she was aware of the fire only after her second-floor office was plunged into darkness and smoke filled the hallways. For more than 30 minutes, she waited for help while talking to a 911 operator, she said.

"The windows don't open, it was dark and there was a lot of smoke, so I was pretty scared," Galante said. "Then the firefighters came in and broke out one of our windows, so I thought, 'OK, I'm not going to die.' "

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