Fall Semester Starts as Station Fire Rages

As the Station Fire in La Canada and Tujunga raged on into September and the first days of classes, the Glendale College Web site advised students to stay at home if they were sensitive to smoke.

Meanwhile, the college opened as planned on Aug 31.

“There has been no difference from other semester starts,” said Ron Harlan, dean of Instructional Services.

” People are very dedicated at this school and the fire has just caused a minor impact on the attendance.”

Professors were asked to be “flexible” regarding the first day of school due to the state of emergency, and students who stayed home were promised that they would not be dropped from their classes.

For some who did come to campus, it wasn’t easy.

Arbi Hartounian, 25, a communications major, described how demanding it was for him to walk from parking lot 34 to his class.

“I work out daily, but because of the ash, my daily workouts have been cut in half. I can’t breathe, let alone smoke a cigarette,” he said. “The walk from my car to class is even tiring; it’s like I am having trouble breathing.”

“The ashes caused me to have a running nose, and my eyes were red and itchy all day. No joke I sneezed like 50 times,” said student Sevana Tamrazian. Tamrazian also works at Wilson Middle School in Glendale, which she said was closed for three days.

Despite the air quality, the health center on campus did not have any extra visitors the first days of classes.

“I am surprised that no one has come in for treatment,” said Registered Nurse Sharon Horejsi. She figured the people who are sensitive and aware of their conditions stayed home.

Several students disagreed with the decision of the campus to remain open. Even if they did not visit the Health Center, many students visited GCC’s Facebook page and posted their experience of the first day of school on its Wall.

When asked, all of the students who did experience health problems on or to their way to campus thought the school should have postponed the start date for the fall semester until the air became cleaner.

“I just got a car wash and it went to waste,” said 24 year-old student Hourik Harapetian.”Our whole lobby at the bank smelled like smoke too,” she said of her workplace. Harapetian had a difficult time driving, comparing it to “Dante’s Peak..” “It was like driving by an erupting volcano.”

Even though students were not dropped, some of them believe they will have a hard time catching up for the missed classes. One of them is 32-year-old biology major Shaudi Pishvaie.

“The smoke definitely affected me,” said Pishvaie. “I have asthma that I finally had under some control. Walking to and from my car to classes and around campus reversed that on the first Monday.”

Pishvaie experienced labored breathing, coughing, irritated and watery eyes and needed to use her rescue inhaler excessively. She did not return to class on the following Wednesday or Friday, nor did she go to the college bookstore to purchase her books. She said her health was more important to her.

“Because of this, I feel that I got off to a bad start and will end up dropping one of my courses.”

AnnaLinda Andersson &
Aris Allahverdian