Gilroy – The smell of burning rubber and the appearance of smoke in the gym was enough warning for Gilroy High School staff and students to evacuate onto the courtyard Wednesday afternoon.
About 40 food service workers and students wearing their gym uniforms sat on picnic benches watching firefighters secure the building and search for the cause.
Food service worker Debbie Thompson was the among the first to notice the odd smell coming from the gym.
"We went in the foyer for a break and saw smoke coming down from the vent," she said. "It smelled like plastic. I felt all the doors, but it wasn't coming from them."
Students chatted in clusters wondering what had happened.
"It was a horrible smell," said freshman Will Van Booraem. "It was like burning rubber in the kitchen. It was really smelling bad."
Two engines and a rescue unit from the Gilroy Fire Department responded to the call shortly after 1:30pm and by 2:10pm the gym was re-opened.
"We're still trying to ascertain whatever it was that started the smoke," said Fire Chief Dale Foster.
Firefighters questioned construction workers on campus trying to determine whether they may have triggered something while working on the student center next door to the gym.
However, crews told fire officials it was unlikely they were at fault.
Gilroy High School's assistant principals spoke with fire officials who deemed the building safe for students and food service workers to return to finish their physical education classes and clean up the kitchen after lunch.
"We have maintenance on scene here who will continue to look out for anything," Foster said.