The fire that broke out inside ASU’s student union Thursday appears “suspicious,” a Tempe fire official said.
City, state and federal investigators finished their assessment of the scene late Friday and found indications that the blaze was caused by human activity, Tempe Fire Department spokesman Phil Rohe said Friday night.
The fire began just before 1 p.m. Thursday on the east side of the Memorial Union at Arizona State University’s main campus, forcing about 5,000 occupants to evacuate. No one was injured.
Rohe stopped short of saying that arson was suspected in the fire, but he asked anyone who might have more information to call ASU police.
“We’re still looking into other matters,” Rohe said, though he would not elaborate.
He added that investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on the scene, as was someone from the state Fire Marshal’s Office.
It took firefighters only about 30 minutes to put the fire out, but the damage was extensive. The building, home to restaurants, meeting rooms and many student services, was completely shut down Thursday and remained closed as of late Friday.
ASU officials had not yet decided when the student union would reopen.
The fire was also the first test of the university’s emergency alert system, which sends out text messages to the cell phones of students, faculty and staff. The system was implemented in the wake of the mass slaying in April at Virginia Tech University.
A message was sent out to about 3,500 cell phones more than 30 minutes after the fire was extinguished. University officials said a message wasn’t sent earlier because the fire didn’t threaten the whole campus.
Anyone with information about the fire’s cause should call ASU police at (480) 965-3456.