UCLA issued this statement late on Wednesday night:
"Given the array of uncertainties caused by the fire near campus, UCLA has cancelled classes on Thursday, December 7. This is a difficult decision, since final exams begin on Saturday. The university remains safe, remains outside the evacuation area, and The South Coast Air Quality Management District continues to indicate that campus air quality is in the moderate range. However, canceling Thursday classes will allow UCLA officials to assess logistical issues in advance of finals week. UCLA medical centers and clinics will be fully operational Thursday. Faculty and staff should report to work if they are able to access campus or make other arrangements with their supervisors. Campus leadership looks forward to returning to normal operations and will continue to provide regular updates via the UCLA website, Bruin Alert and social media postings."
The Skirball fire began shortly before 5 a.m. on Wednesday and rapidly spread, burning homes and brush off campus, forcing evacuations and street closures, and prompting Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to declare a local state of emergency. At UCLA some morning classes were held as scheduled, though with the northbound 405 freeway closed for several hours, many students and faculty were not able to get to campus.
Though the campus was never in immediate danger, transportation to campus was so difficult that by 11 a.m. UCLA announced it had canceled all afternoon classes. Students were advised to check with their instructors or departments about making up class time or work.
“I know this has been a long and difficult day and I want to thank our entire campus community for their patience, poise and hard work,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block wrote in a Wednesday evening email to the campus community. “From our students calmly continuing their studies, to our medical center team providing care and support to patients, to our countless faculty and staff who braved long commutes and uncommon challenges to keep campus operating or arranged to work from home, you have my enormous gratitude and appreciation. I also want to acknowledge all of the firefighters and emergency personnel working tirelessly across Southern California to save lives and homes.”
All hospitals in the UCLA Health System remained open and fully operational throughout the day and all employees who could safely get to campus were instructed to report to work. UCLA Health said that normal operations and scheduled procedures are expected to resume Thursday at Medical Plaza buildings following a power outage that struck parts of campus and the West Los Angeles area. In addition, the UCLA Health Ventura clinic on Telephone Road was closed.
Effects of the late-morning power outage rippled across parts of campus. In residence halls, emergency generators powered stairwell lighting and emergency lighting. The power outage caused four elevators to stop while residents were inside, and people with UCLA Housing helped everyone out within 15 minutes of the outage.
The power outage also forced the closure of two of the five residential dining halls, so lunch service was consolidated to three dining halls: De Neve, Bruin Plate and Hedrick, and one quick-service location, Bruin Café. Covel dining hall reopened at 1 p.m. and all locations were open for dinner.
“There were some long lines at lunch, but everyone got a meal and everything went smoothly,” said Charles Wilcots, associate director of UCLA Dining.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power restored power to most of the affected parts of campus around 12:30 p.m.
Smoke from the fire was visible from campus all day on Wednesday. Campus officials decided early in the morning on Wednesday to close UCLA Early Care and Education facilities, the Geffen Academy and the UCLA Lab School for the day. Face masks were available at the UCLA Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center to anyone on campus who wanted one.
UCLA Athletics canceled Wednesday night's men's basketball game versus Montana scheduled for Pauley Pavilion. Fans who purchased single-game tickets for the basketball game will be automatically refunded. UCLA men’s basketball season ticket holders will automatically receive a credit for the cost of the game to their UCLA ticket account. Ticket purchasers with questions may contact the Central Ticket Office.
Two concerts at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music have been rescheduled. The Jazz Improvisation Concert will now be held on Monday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. and the location has been moved to Schoenberg Music Building, Room 1343. The UCLA Symphony: Orchestral Showcase has been rescheduled to Saturday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. in Schoenberg Hall.
Pools at UCLA were already covered in a layer of ash from the week's earlier Creek fire in the San Fernando Valley and the Thomas fire in Ventura County. UCLA Recreation canceled swimming and most outdoor activities for the second day in a row on Wednesday.
“As the day progressed, out of continuing concern for health and safety, indoor classes and programs were canceled, and most indoor activity spaces were limited or closed,” said Erinn McMahan, director of UCLA Recreation. “With the power outages and concerns over potentially compromised indoor air quality, several recreation facilities, including Sunset Canyon Recreation Center and BFit, were closed as well.”
Future closures will depend on air quality, campus pools’ water quality and visibility, and any new utility outages. Generators in locations like Pauley Pavilion and Wooden Center can minimize the impact of outages, but air quality concerns may continue to make even indoor exercise hazardous.