Car set on fire after tailgate; school investigates

Claremont McKenna College is conducting an investigation after a car used for a spirit event was set on fire at the Senior Apartments during the November 10 football game between Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Pomona-Pitzer. The car was set on fire after a tailgate event where attendees hit the car — painted in Pomona-Pitzer’s colors of blue and orange — with sledgehammers.

“It’s unfortunate because the event was awesome and it wasn’t an act performed by any of the participants,” said David Hirsch ’13, who organized the tailgate with Evan Otis ’13. Hirsch said that he and Otis registered the event with the Dean of Students Office.

The car, which came from a scrapyard and contained no glass, was parked at the basketball court by the Senior Apartments and set off by caution tape. Students and alumni who attended took turns smashing the car using the two sledgehammers present.

“The two people with sledgehammers would come and wreak havoc on the car,” Hirsch said. “Everybody really enjoyed it.”

Around 11:45 a.m., attendees left for the football game, which took place at Pomona’s Merritt Field. Hirsch said that he and Otis planned to have the car picked up at 4 p.m. by a scrapyard tow truck.

At approximately 12:30, however, Hirsch got a call saying that “something crazy had happened,” he said. According to Hirsch, eyewitnesses told him that someone poured kerosene on the backseat of the car and lit it on fire.

The smoke caught the attention of someone driving down Claremont Boulevard, who called the fire department. Before the fire department showed up, students had put the fire out with fire extinguishers, Hirsch said.

Dean of Students Mary Spellman and Director of Student Activities Jim Nauls also came to the scene.

“They kind of took pictures and did an informal investigation,” Hirsch said.

According to a statement released by the school, the school is continuing to investigate.

The statement says, "We take this incident very seriously and are thankful that no one was injured and that no property damage took place. Since the investigation is still in process there is no information to share with the community at this time."

Otis said that he and Hirsch did not anticipate someone setting the car on fire.

"I along with the other event hosts failed to foresee that we needed to take precautionary measures from kids intentionally lighting the car on fire," he said. "As a result, we were extremely surprised when we first heard the news, and very irritated with the fact that someone failed to think about the potential repercussions."