HAYWARD -- Baking owl pellets were behind the evacuation of the four-story science building at Cal State East Bay shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Fire officials said someone had pulled a manual alarm. Because the source of the problem wasn't clear, "it caused a lot of havoc for us," Hayward fire Capt. Thor Poulsen said.
"We got there, and students were running out of the building," he said. "Some said there was smoke; some said there wasn't. ... We were hauling a hose up the stairs. We were on high alert."
Poulsen said firefighters found the source of the concern in Room 212 -- owl pellets, the inedible remains of rodents that owls regurgitate after swallowing the animal whole.
"They were cooking owl pellets at 300 degrees for a certain amount of time to kill bacteria," Poulsen said. "Somebody smelled it -- apparently it smells a little bit -- and pulled the fire alarm."
Poulsen said two trucks and at least four engines responded.