Case Histories of Mall Fires
Noteworthy losses in malls have occurred in Winter Park, Fla.; Greenville, S.C.; Omaha, Neb.; and Fort Myers, Fla.
In the Winter Haven Mall, fire burned for a considerable time before being discovered. The police department, responding to a burglar alarm, found a light haze of smoke and sent a dispatch to the fire department. A limited response of an engine and rescue truck was dispatched because of the number of smoke calls prevalent in the past.
On arrival, with a major fire going, the engine captain called for a general alarm, and the fire chief ordered the use of master stream devices. This action was credited with confining the fire to a 50,000-square-foot quadrant of the mall. The mall was not sprinklered and steel supports for the roof were unprotected, failing when the roof collapsed. Automatic sprinklers were installed when the mall was rebuilt.
The absence of automatic sprinklers on the top floor of a five-level mall, false ceilings and no fire walls resulted in a three-alarm fire in Omaha with $5 million in damage.
Fire burned unchecked in the space above the ceiling of the Greenville Mall, with 53 stores damaged and an estimated loss of $30 million. The fire occurred at the height of the 1981 Christmas season, and fire fighters had to work their way through various displays that hampered hose stretching operations. As structural failure began to occur, the sprinkler piping below the ceiling was damaged. This facility occupied some 570,000 square feet with three anchor and 50 linking stores.
In the Fort Myers’ Edison Mall fire, the two anchor stores’ entranceways were protected by deluge systems, and subdivision walls prevented fire spread. Fire was contained to four stores in the mall, fire walls preventing spread to other facilities. In this fire there was rapid spread over the area of involvement. Crews stretching lines into the mall were able to check the fire and prevent extension down or across the open mall.