The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Restroom arson leads to student arrest

More+than+an+hour+after+the+evacuation%2C+students+still+stood+outside+from+the+corner+of+Taylor+St.+to+the+front+door+of+TR+Campus.+Brooke+Baldwin%2FThe+Collegian
More than an hour after the evacuation, students still stood outside from the corner of Taylor St. to the front door of TR Campus. Brooke Baldwin/The Collegian

By Dang Le and Cole Kembel

More than an hour after the evacuation, students still stood outside from the corner of Taylor St. to the front door of TR Campus. Brooke Baldwin/The Collegian

A 19-year-old student was arrested on a charge of arson after a fire was set in TR Campus’ East Fork building Feb. 20. 

Pearl Pettit was taken into custody after the fire was set in the women’s restroom on the sixth floor of the building, police said. 

“This remains an active investigation,” assistant police chief Chanissa Dietrich said. 

Pettit will also be “addressed through the student disciplinary process at a later date.”

Fort Worth firefighter and public information officer Kyle Clay said that although it was a small fire, the smoke filled up a large area of the building. He said firefighters also made sure that the ceilings weren’t affected. 

“No one was harmed as a result of this incident,” Dietrich said. “The bathroom sustained damage and is currently out of commission awaiting repairs.”

Everybody who was in the East Fork building was evacuated at 9:15 a.m., and the entire building was blocked off by campus police until 10:35 a.m. Students, faculty and staff members were all told to wait in the cafeteria area. 

 One student said he smelled something wrong when he stepped outside, but TR student Emily Barrientes said she and her classmates just brushed it off. 

“When he said that, I was just like, ‘Oh no, it was just us being sweaty, and somebody’s gonna stink,’” she said.

One false alarm occurred on TR Feb. 18 and two other false alarms took place  before the fire happened. 

“I was in my office when the first alarm started,”  TR associate professor of arts Janae Corrado said. “I initially was not super concerned, so I set my things down and got ready to evacuate.’’

As the alarm blared on for 10 minutes, police officers assured everybody that nothing was happening, and it was a system mistake. The elevators were working, and the evacuation ended around 8:55 a.m. 

 A second false alarm went off after 9 a.m. This time, international admissions enrollment associate Vivian Lu, whose office is on the third floor of East Fork, became skeptical. 

“There was another one going on, and then we were more definite that this was going to be a system failure,” she said. 

Lu said a police officer stopped by her office and told everyone to stay where they were. Even though students, staff and faculty members of that building were evacuating, she stayed in the office. 

“There are some renovations over in the other wing,” said vice chancellor of communications and external affairs Reginald Gates. “The previous alarm was inadvertently turned on by the construction crews in the building.” 

While all the evacuations took place in East Fork, people on the other side of campus were not aware. Student-workers in student activities on TRTR’s second floor said that they were not told to evacuate. They were working when the incident happened and only knew about it later. 

“I didn’t know there was a fire, not until I left my class around 11 a.m.,” TR student Diego Hernandez said. 

After all the false alarms, students, faculty and staff members were skeptical of the last alarm, reducing the effectiveness of the warning system. 

Even when a campus police told Barrientes to evacuate during the real fire alarm, she didn’t even believe what was happening.

“I was kinda over it. Like, well, ‘how bad is it?’” she said. “Then the security guard came and got us and then from then on, we knew there was a real one.” 

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian