The old adage, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” proved to be true in the early morning hours today at the .
and were called to the mall in response to a general alarm, according to Chief John Gonzalez of Company No. 1.
“We received the call at approximately 2:45 a.m.,” said Gonzalez. “We arrived on scene and found a sprinkler system activation in the zone of the mall near .”
Upon further examination, Gonzalez said that Company No. 2 Chief Jeff Cirz detected a smoke condition emanating from the employee bathroom of , which sells sports apparel and attire.
“The situation was then dispatched as a structure fire, at which point we gained access to the store and put the fire out,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez explained that the fire was also put out by the store’s sprinkler system, which preserved the store, though it caused “tremendous damage” to the inventory at Champs Sports.
“This situation is a perfect advertisement for why fire sprinkler systems are important,” Gonzalez explained.
Gonzalez described how firefighters were on scene for the following two hours, ventilating smoke from the store and from that general area of the mall. There were no injuries reported at the scene.
Through their investigation, Director James Mercready and Inspector Kevin Esposito from the Toms River Bureau of Fire Prevention have determined that the fire was accidentally caused by a light/exhaust fan unit in the employee bathroom, which malfunctioned and “ignited available combustibles”, according to Mercready.
“The tenant space that Champs occupies was posted as an unsafe structure due to heat, smoke and water damage throughout the store,” said Mercready in a press release on the incident.
Mercready also credited the store's sprinkler system for helping to keep the fire under control.
“In this case, one activated fire sprinkler head, which activates once temperatures around 155 degrees Fahrenheit are reached, controlled and suppressed the fire. Once the fire sprinkler activated, a fire alarm signal was sent, which alerts the fire department to respond,” Mercready explained.
Due to that activation, Mercready added that a “potentially catastrophic fire” was averted.
“The effectiveness of fire sprinklers is demonstrated once again, and they are an essential component of effective fire protection, in both commercial and residential applications. While the Champs store will remain closed until repairs and clean-up are achieved, the remainder of the mall will be allowed to be occupied,” said Mercready.