Thursday, October 21, 2010

California Mall Fire: "This is absolutely ridiculous"

Roseville, California, didn't have a good day.

There's a 240-store shopping mall in Roseville, California, called the the Westfield Galleria. Which is a little odd, since it's on the northeast side of Sacramento.

The building's in pretty good shape, considering that it took seven hours to put out the fire. The good news is that nobody seems to have been hurt or killed in the fire.

Fire in the Mall

"Calif. Mall Severely Damaged After Out-of-Control Fire"
FOXNews (October 21, 2010)

"An entire arm of a high-end mall outside Sacramento, Calif., has been damaged in a fire that spread out of control after a man who barricaded himself inside the building was arrested.

"Officials say the Roseville Galleria could be closed or limited in operations for months because of Thursday's blaze, which caused part of the roof on the building's south end to collapse.

"Authorities say the 1.3 million-square-foot mall was evacuated earlier, after the man holed up in a store and started what appeared at first to be a small fire.

"Police said the blaze began spreading as members of the bomb squad were examining the man's backpack, forcing them to flee the building.

"Police identified the man as 23-year-old Alexander Corney Pigee...."

Some articles spell the fellow's name "Pigee," others "Piggee." There's probably a correct spelling: but with a slightly-uncommon name like that, it's no surprise that 'breaking news' reports are a bit iffy about how many of which letters it's got.

The Lemming realizes that worse things can happen, than the place where you earn a living burning: but there are better sorts of events, too.

The 'alleged' arsonist's mother seems to have told a station (KCRA-3) that he lost his job recently. That can be upsetting. From the looks of things, Mr. P. will have lots of company now. Somehow, though, 'misery loves company' probably doesn't apply in this case.

Masterful Understatement

One of the best comments made on what happened today appeared in an ABC News10 story:

"Employees, customers shocked by Roseville flames" (October 21, 2010)

"...Mall employee Ray Cook watched the firefighters working on the blaze.

" 'This is absolutely ridiculous,' Cook said. 'I can't believe I'm actually witnessing this. This is not what I thought I would be seeing when I came into work today.' "

Couldn't have put it better, myself.

Westfield Galleriea Fire: Local Paper, More Details

"Roseville's Westfield Galleria Mall ablaze, suspect ID'd"
Lien Hoang, Roseville Press-Tribune (October 21, 2010)

"The quietest time of day at Roseville’s top landmark turned frantic Thursday when a man took over a store and set off several fires.

"Alexander Piggee forced a total evacuation of the Westfield Galleria Mall after he allegedly marched into a second-story Game Stop, told employees he was armed, and ignited multiple fires that brought down part of the roof. The fires were not fully extinguished by press time.

"Peace officers, who have arrested Piggee, got the first call at 10:22 a.m. The 23-year-old transient reportedly barricaded himself in the backroom or bathroom of the Game Stop after forcing the employees to leave.

"Officials have linked Piggee to two recent arsons in Sacramento County...."

The Roseville Press-Tribune article has quite a bit of detail, including mention of one reason why the fire was so hard to contain:

"...When they arrested Piggee (pronounced pi-GAY), authorities said he was no longer wearing a backpack he had carried inside. That prompted a bomb investigation, but when the squad located the bag, flames flared up again, forcing them to leave the building. They couldn’t recover the backpack, which ended up buried beneath debris after the partial roof collapse, as of latest reports.

" 'It was just too unsafe,' Roseville Police Lt. Michael Doane said, adding that the squad was using a robot and protective gear. No injuries were reported...."
(Roseville Press-Tribune)

Sure, with 20-20 hindsight it's 'obvious' that there wasn't a bomb in that backpack. But when someone sets fires in a landmark building - and leaves a package behind - law enforcement and firefighters would be daft to not consider that there was an explosive device, ready to blow up in someone's face.

Another paragraph fills in more of the fire's timeline:

"...Smoke that billowed from the mall roof died down until 1:45 p.m., when it burst back into the sky and sent pieces of ash raining down into the parking lot. It was not until this second wind that the roof over Game Stop came down...."
(Roseville Press-Tribune)

More News, More Details: and More Consequences

"Fire Rips Through Mall; Arson Suspect's Mom In 'Shock'" (October 21, 2010)

"...Meanwhile, the mother of Alexander Piggee, the man arrested in connection with an earlier standoff and blaze at the mall, said she was in 'shock.'

"Piggee, 23, said on his on Facebook page that he lives in the Sacramento area and has battled mental illness. He said he is originally from Stockton...."

'And the moral of this is - - -' There may be folks among Earth's billions who are, really, alone. But they seem to be few and far between. Most of us have someone whose lives we affect: parents, siblings, friends, neighbors.

And, in this case, the folks whose place of employment we torched.

The Lemming isn't surprised that the (alleged) arsonist's mother is "in 'shock.' " This isn't the way any reasonable person would want a member of the family to get into national news.

The news article adds a few data points to the timeline:

"...At about 1 p.m., Piggee was loaded into a police car and taken to the Roseville jail...."

He was spotted being taken from the jail to an ambulance around 5 p.m. "...Police said he was taken to Sutter Roseville Medical Center with an undiagnosed medical condition. By 7 p.m., Roseville police said, Piggee was transported to the Placer County Jail.

"Smoke billowed skyward and flames shot from the roof of the mall Thursday afternoon as an earlier fire flared up again. At about 6:45 p.m., more flames were seen flickering from the roof of the building....

"...Authorities said the original standoff occurred at the GameStop store at the mall, which was evacuated at about 10:30 a.m. Police and firefighters from several agencies responded....

"...The earlier blaze appeared to die down by early afternoon. But shortly before 2 p.m., a large plume of smoke rose from the mall. Flames could be seen shooting from the roof, which partially collapsed...."

Something that many news items mentioned was that Roseville is in the same shape that many American towns and cities are in: Folks need jobs, but have a hard time finding them.

Burning down part of a major employer's building isn't going to help that situation.

Turns out that KCRA is a CNN affiliate:

"California mall ablaze after man sets fire, barricades self in store"
CNN (October 21, 2010)

"...The man entered the Westfield Galleria at Roseville 'speaking incoherently' in the late morning, police said. He claimed he had a handgun and then set the fire, which has lasted for hours.

"Police and fire crews converged on the scene, and several police officers led a suspect out in handcuffs shortly after 1 p.m. Authorities said they believe he may have been involved in an arson the night before, Sacramento fire officials told CNN affiliate KXTV.

"Roseville police identified the suspect as Alexander C. Pigee, 23. He was being checked at a hospital before being sent to jail, officials told CNN...."

Another vote for the "Pigee" spelling. I'm pretty sure that the courts will sort out which spelling they prefer. And, quite possibly, decide that Mr. P. did something illegal. For his sake, I hope so. Right now, turning him loose in Roseville might lead to informal - and highly unpleasant - sanctions.

The town's had enough trouble for the week, in my opinion.

Why All This Fuss Over a Fire?

The Lemming doesn't, as a rule, post about 'breaking news' stories. This time, though, what's happening will affect - directly and indirectly - a great many people in a state I lived in, years ago.

Think of it as having a small personal stake in this story

City of Roseville California

"The fire has been 100% contained; the Roseville Fire Department will be on-site monitoring hot spots throughout the night.

"Update @ 8:20 p.m.
"The suspect, Alexander Corney Pigee, was transported at 6:45 p.m. to the Placer County Jail.

"Follow this event on the City's Twitter feed:

I'm sure that the city isn't trying to boss anybody around: that "follow this event" phrase is, in American English and following our cultural norms, more of an invitation than an order.


Brigid said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

A 240-story shopping mall??

They get that big??

Oh, and bummer about the fire. Glad no one was seriously hurt.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


I didn't find the 240-story reference. The Roseville mall has (had) 240 stores. Which, if it has a four-wing arrangement, would put 60 stores in each wing, 30 to a side of each wing - or 15, if they were stacked two deep.

Big, but not all that much.

It's roughly, by my count, twice the size of Crossroads Center in St. Cloud.

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