Report: Sprinklers turned off during Calif. mall fire

The fire began when a man walked into a video game store and announced he had a weapon and was carrying a backpack that smelled of kerosene


By Greg Morrison
CNN

ROSEVILLE, Calif. — A sprinkler system was turned off for more than an hour during a fire that devastated a California mall, a report says.

The huge blaze occurred at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville, California, on October 21.

Roseville police and fire officials released a report Friday about the blaze, which began when a man walked into a video game store and announced he had a weapon and was carrying a backpack that smelled of kerosene. The man was later identified as 23-year-old Alexander Piggee.

Roseville police and fire departments rushed to the scene, but both stalled in entering the mall because of the possibility the suspect may have had a bomb, the report said.

The report also said a maintenance worker at the mall shut off the sprinkler system in the section of the mall where the fire started for 71 minutes.

It was unclear who told the maintenance worker to shut off the sprinklers. The maintenance worker said a police officer or sheriff's deputy told him to shut down the system, but no police officers or sheriff's deputies were on the scene at the time, according to the report.

When questioned, the maintenance worker changed his story, saying that a UPS worker relayed a request from authorities to shut off the sprinkler system, according to the report. But the worker could not recall who started the request.

It took a full day before the fire was knocked down. Two firefighters were injured during the blaze.

The mall, about 18 miles northwest of Sacramento, was evacuated during the incident, and it remained closed after the suspect was arrested. No bomb has been recovered from the mall.

The damage was so severe that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency at the time. The governor's order suspended one-week waiting period for store employees who seek unemployment benefits in Placer County.

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