Report: Sprinklers turned off during California mall fire
December 18th, 2010
03:43 AM ET

Report: Sprinklers turned off during California mall fire

A sprinkler system in a California mall was turned off for more than an hour during a fire that devastated a California mall, a new report states.

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 incident, 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 that 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.

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Filed under: California
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Chuck O'Connor

    What the heck? Why ? My GF and I are asking over and over WHY WHY WHY would someone turn OFF the water system? Was it some idiots way of thinking of saving some RETAIL items? No, that makes no sense? I can't for any reason that makes sense to me, to think of what they were thinking, I would love to hear a sensible reason, and feel better about it, Anyone else feeling as bothered as I ? of am I missing something? Obvious?

    December 18, 2010 at 4:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Me too!

      December 18, 2010 at 7:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Name*jess

      I have no idea. I bet it may have even been off for several months and no one even knew 😦
      Also if the guy turned it off during the fire maybe he was trying to turn it up or something?
      This is horrible I hope everyone is okay.

      December 18, 2010 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • nonPCrealist

      The guy probably thought that was how to turn the system ON. Remember: people are dumb.

      December 18, 2010 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Harry

      Before coming to CNN for your news, you have to suspend your desire to learn anything. That way, you will not be disappointed.

      December 18, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Johnson

      Has the thought of maybe Mr. Alexander turned the water system OFF, it probably as easy as turning a valve in the right location, before he pulled his little stunt.. most logical I'd say

      December 18, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • WhatUTalkin'BoutWillis

      Here's a noble thought for you...try clicking "FULL STORY." Your eyes will be opened as to why. FYI, you really shouldn't tear something apart so viciously without your own vetting process and catching more of the information that they have available. It makes one look rather...shall I say...incompetent???

      December 18, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      It COULD be that someone DID tell him to turn off the water. If it was thought that he had kerosene or gasoline spread around, water would SPREAD the fire.

      We used to leave our standpipe system dry where I was deployed, the risk of a water leak in a wet pipe system was too great, as the water would leak over a few hundred million dollars worth of communications and routing equipment.

      December 18, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. ricstir

    Sounds like a insurance scam to me

    December 18, 2010 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
    • whgage

      An insurance scam? How ridiculous. The nutjob who started the fire and the maintenance man in cahoots. Laughable. To dumb to set up a scam and not smart enough not to leave the sprinkler water on.

      December 18, 2010 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      It's plausible. No one said that the fire starting guy didn't work there.

      December 18, 2010 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      M<aybe it was an act of God? Maybe God likes to see crispy critters?

      December 18, 2010 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. Hero

    Have a little decaf next time chuck. No need to get so excited. There is no explanation for this just like a lot of other things that happen. Stupid is as stupid does.

    December 18, 2010 at 4:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. TeddyN

    It would be nice if the reporter could have found out why the worker turned off the sprinklers.

    December 18, 2010 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Perfect

      It would be even nicer if the reporter took an English class:

      "A sprinkler system in a California mall was turned off for more than an hour during a fire that devastated a California mall, a new report states."

      December 18, 2010 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
    • jefffromohio

      from: Mr. Perfect
      "A sprinkler system in a California mall was turned off for more than an hour during a fire that devastated a California mall, a new report states."

      What do you expect from CNN?

      December 18, 2010 at 5:00 am | Report abuse |
    • steeve-o

      Click on the blue link below the article that says "Full Story" and you'll get the answer.

      December 18, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • junior

      jeff, what do expect from California.

      December 18, 2010 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. shopper1

    the full report reads that the maintenance worker turned off the sprinkers at the behest of a UPS driver (Im not making this up! It's crazy, but check Sacramento Bee (the local paper) or KCRA (the local tv)). they say they did so at the request of the police, but then the trail goes cold – the police say absolutely no request was made. as for insurance scam? i don't think so – this mall is the rich white mall (to quote chris rock) and one of the most profitable in all northern california. it made far more money open, and now with 1/3 the retailers closed, especially during xmas, they are losing big and consequently the mall loses big in rent. the mall previously was huge and always packed, and leases were insanely expensive.

    December 18, 2010 at 5:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Valerie

      Ya definitely! I laughed at all the clowns writing that this was an insurance scam. You're correct, this mall is losing FAR MORE money by being closed. It is such a profitable mall, I myself have dropped a few thousand there & I'm just a college kid haha. This all happened right before Thanksgiving so the mall is losing all holiday shopping revenue. I completely agree, this mall is always packed full of people. It was sad going last week since hardly anyone was there. They're all shopping at Arden now!

      December 18, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jason

    As mentioned above, we don't know why the sprinklers were shut off. I do know that there is occasional draining and testing that has to be done with sprinkler systems. However there usually is a staff member watching for and fires whenever any part of the fire system is taken down. Could be an unfortunate coincidence or something else could be going on.

    December 18, 2010 at 5:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee G

      Not to go for a conspiracy theory here, but is there a possibility that the worker who shut-off the sprinkler system was in on it?

      December 18, 2010 at 5:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Yfghyd

      But we do know why they were shut off – the comment above?

      December 18, 2010 at 6:27 am | Report abuse |
  7. mayhem

    Many businesses don't keep their fire alarms in great condition. The maintenance worker was probably trained due to many false alarms to deactivate the water flow before the whole mall flooded. This keeps the alarm going but prevents the sprinklers. He probably thought it was another false alarm and didn't know about the situation taking place. A false alarm can be tripped by cleaning agents or burnt popcorn. Even though it takes actual heat to activate sprinklers who knows what problems their fire system had.

    December 18, 2010 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
    • turtle

      Right or wrong, this is the most plausible theory posted so far. corncop (below) may be right, but that doesn't mean that the mall guy or his superiors have accurate knowledge of the fire alarms and sprinkled systems.

      December 18, 2010 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Vince72

      No, sprinklers do not work like in the movies. The are not activated from the alarm going off. Each sprinkler head has a heat sensitive stopper (they melt away at specific temperatures allowing the flow of water). The stopper is designed for an appropriate heat level for where the sprinkler is installed (factories with high normal temperatures have ones with higher temperature melting point). Unlike the movies the alarm does not set off the sprinkler, its the flow of water through the system when a head activates that sets off the alarm. This prevents sprinklers from activating in non fire areas when the alarm goes off preventing unneeded water damage.

      December 18, 2010 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. Betty

    Sounds very idiotic, that person should be terminated.

    December 18, 2010 at 5:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. brown

    hehe. Burn baby burn!

    December 18, 2010 at 5:54 am | Report abuse |
  10. aime

    LOL sue the UPS for the advice of their driver..hehe

    December 18, 2010 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. corncop

    "mayhem", you need to take a little schooling on the differences between fire alarms and sprinkler systems. They are separate but not equal. The fire alarms can be set off by a manual pull station, a smoke and/or heat detector, or possible another means. Sprinkler alarms are generally water gongs or some type of alarm that detects actual water flow within the sprinkler system. It can be set up to notify a central station in a security office and will always be connected directly to the fire department in large commercial structures.

    Furthermore, some commenter’s have the misconception that if the sprinkler system is activated, everything opens up and the whole building will be covered with water. Not true! Sprinkler heads are heat activated and only those that are near the fire (hot enough) will open and allow water to flow. In a system that is designed and working correctly, and not shut down, one or two operating heads should control the fire until the fire department can finish the job. Assuming that the sprinkler heads have not been obstructed, damaged, or otherwise compromised and that combustion load higher than normal (flammable liquids) was not present. Water will only go on the immediate area of the heat activated heads and not everywhere in the building. Smoke maybe, but not water.

    If the sprinklers were shut down for more than an hour, then the fire was allowed to go unchecked for that time and it basically became a matter of math. The sprinkler pipes were most likely damaged rendering the system useless in the area of the fire and the fire department could not apply enough water directly onto the fire, fast enough to slow or stop the growth of the fire. Unfortunately, this became a surround and drown fire that is try to stop it from extending to nearby structures and allow it to consume the flammable materials until it gets small enough that you can physically extinguish the fire.

    Not the most desired outcome, but too often seen, particularly in residential structures in outlying areas or during the night. Smoke and heat detectors are essential-Check yours today! – And properly designed and installed residential sprinkler systems would save countless lives and untold $'s in property damage each year. If you are building, have it installed during construction. Retrofit your existing home. And if you live in a condo, townhouse, or apartment, check to see if there are installed sprinklers and that the owner or association tests and maintains them. It's your life!

    December 18, 2010 at 6:26 am | Report abuse |
    • turtle

      I have 18 sprinkler heads in my 1,500 sq ft condo....and seriously doubt that they would actually work in case of a fire #shadydevelopers

      December 18, 2010 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. Anthony

    The two people that said the reporter needs English classes. You need to increase your reading comprehension skills you dolts.

    December 18, 2010 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. Quincy9

    They had a Sears and a JC Penny.... no loss there, but Nordstrom being damaged is a cause for sorrow.

    December 18, 2010 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. mikeg

    The fire alarm panel in the fire command center would have indicated the sprinklers were being shut off immediately, and fire officials could have ordered them back on before the valves were completely closed. Too bad they don't know their jobs like they know how to take thursdays and fridays off or go out on disability. They will probably envoke stiffer fire codes to take focus from who was at fault like in R.I. making it harder for new businesses to open with the new codes. At least 100 people didn't die.

    December 18, 2010 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mike Miller

    I am a Sprinkler Fitter in Chicago. The truth is that a Fire Sprinkler System is never turned off unless there is scheduled maintenance on the system or there is a chance that the system could freeze due to the HVAC System not functioning properly. All Fire Sprinkler valves are monitored at all times.

    December 18, 2010 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike Miller

      The second that a valve is turned to the off position a trouble signal is sent to the Fire Dept. or a Central Station. A Fire Sprinkler Systems lack of efficiency can be blamed on human error 100% of the time. Finally, a Fire Sprinkler System is not designed to put out fires, but contain them, though over 90% of the time fires are extinguished by the system. Hope this helps.

      December 18, 2010 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
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