Vehicle fire at mall forces unwelcome intermission

Dan Pelle photo

Robyn Gett walks back to River Park Square with her soda and popcorn in hand after she and all mall occupants were asked to leave because of a report of smoke in the building on Saturday.

November 11, 2012 - Updated: 6:16 a.m.

Robyn Gett stood on the sidewalk outside River Park Square on Saturday with her small popcorn and soda, watching the commotion.

She was in the middle of previews at the AMC movie theater when an intercom announcement told patrons to leave the building because of an emergency. Gett didn’t yet know the parking garage there was filled with smoke after a vehicle caught fire about 2:41 p.m.

Spokane Fire Department crews arriving on the scene saw smoke billowing from the parking garage. The fire was confined to one vehicle on the seventh floor of the garage and was quickly knocked down around 3 p.m., according to Battalion Chief Bruce Moline.

No injuries were reported, but an ambulance was called as a precaution.

“We got the fire out and fortunately there was no damage to the structure and nobody was hurt,” Moline said. “The main problem was the smoke that was generated.”

Crews had trouble getting hose lines up to the fire, so they hooked into the building’s sprinkler system, Moline said. They also brought in fans to force out the heavy smoke.

The call resulted in a full response from the fire department because of the location of the incident.

Shoppers who had been evacuated were allowed back inside at about 3:30 p.m., but ramps exiting the garage became congested as many people tried to leave.

Before Gett learned of the vehicle fire, she was thinking of the July 20 theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 dead and 58 injured. Gett hadn’t been to a movie since then but finally decided to attend one Saturday for a study break.

“I’m never coming to a movie again,” she said. “Of course I choose to finally come to a movie and this is what happens.”

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