Westmont Magazine Heroes in Action
There were many heroes the night of the Tea Fire: all the students who immediately evacuated to the gym and patiently waited there throughout the night; the resident assistants and resident directors who worked quickly to account for students; the faculty and staff who stayed in the gym and helped wherever they could, some while their homes burned; the parents who consoled their students during frantic cell phone conversations; the many individuals and churches who housed students when it was safe to leave campus and offered them food and clothing; all the generous friends who have donated money and useful items. Any list of heroes during the Tea Fire must be woefully incomplete because so many helped. But some deserve uncommon commendation.
It Takes a Team
During the fire and the days afterward, President Gayle Beebe worked closely with the Situation Readiness and Response Team, headed by Troy Harris, to manage the crisis. The members include: Tom Bauer, Tom Beveridge, Chris Call (the incident commander), Lindsey Chandler (the student representative), Stu Cleek, Scott Craig, Barry Cunningham, Jena Harris, Nancy Phinney, John Rodkey and Karen Sloan.
Troy Harris, Director of Risk Management
To busy faculty, staff and students, Troy’s insistence on disaster planning and drills seemed an unnecessary nuisance. Yet he persevered and put together a wildfire plan that succeeded brilliantly in keeping the community safe. His foresight, determination and cooperation with fire and law enforcement officials guaranteed Westmont’s preparedness, and he has worked tirelessly with the insurance company to speed the college’s recovery.
Tom provided effective leadership to physical plant staff who had essential roles during the crisis, including hooking up and protecting the generator so students in the gym could have electricity and preserving key areas from the flames until firefighters could arrive.
Stu led the effort to support students during and after the fire, especially those who lost rooms. He directed the advocacy program set up to help each student displaced by the flames. He was the SRT/EOC spokesman to those sheltered in the gym during the fire.
Physical Plant Staff
Hugo Franco, manager of trades, and his staff responded quickly on the night of the fire. Ray Gonzales, Viktor Markov, Jim Mullen, Ariel Palomares, Julian Saavedra, Aleksandr Vertsekha and Michael Vinogradski set up the generator and kept it from burning and used garden hoses and fire extinguishers to battle flames, which helped save Page Hall, the prayer chapel and vehicles in the parking lot west of the gym.
Public Safety Staff
Karen Huggins spotted the fire, reported it to authorities, set in motion Westmont’s emergency response plan, and went around campus to make sure everyone had evacuated. Tom Bauer spent the night patrolling the campus and reporting on the progress of the fire.
As director of campus planning, Randy is well acquainted with the grounds and joined physical plant staff in protecting buildings, especially Page Hall.
To post information about the fire to the Westmont Web site, John made five hazardous trips between the gym and the library during the height of the firestorm.
Student Life Staff
They began caring for students in the gym and continued to provide counseling and assistance in the weeks that followed. Audrey Johnsen managed the phone bank to answer fire-related questions. The Counseling Center staff held drop-in hours when students returned.
Jan was in Kerrwood Hall when she heard about the fire. She called home, then went to her office to take the most recent database backup tapes with her for safe keeping. Her home burned, but the tapes survived.
As the person in charge of logistics for the shelter, he deserves much of the credit for getting it set up quickly and providing a safe place for about 800 people.
A nurse in the Health Center, Sharon provided medical care for students in the gym throughout the night even as her home was destroyed in the fire.
Dave Wolf and the Men’s Soccer Team
Their upset victory over Azusa Pacific to win the conference title after Coach Wolf and one of his players lost their homes in the fire inspired the entire campus. The team went on to win two playoff games and reach the quarterfinals of the NAIA National Tournament.