Police are investigating a suspected arson after a fire at Porirua’s North City shopping centre forced the evacuation of the entire mall on Friday afternoon.
It was suspected the fire – in which no one was injured – was deliberately lit among Christmas decorations in the toy section of Kmart, a police spokeswoman said.
“Some Christmas decorations have been damaged by fire, including a festively decorated tree. Police are at the scene and investigations are being carried out.
“It’s thought that some CCTV footage may lead to locating the Grinch who stole Christmas so early,” the spokeswoman said.
“There’s so many combustibles in there. It could have been disastrous. The sprinkler contained it long enough for us to get in there,” Porirua Fire Brigade senior station officer Dene Wade said.
He commended the staff and management for their quick evacuation and organisation. “They knew what to do.”
Fire and Emergency shift manager Belinda Beets said the fire was called in on 111 at 4.10pm.
An alarm had gone off and the sprinkler system had activated in Kmart, which had contained the fire.
Beets said there were two fire engines in attendance and no reported injuries.
Porirua resident Barbara Doyer was evacuated at about 4.30pm.
“We came out of Millers and there was a suspicious smell.”
“We heard it was on the roof, or maybe coming from Kmart. I heard it’s contained,” shopper Dylan Jones said.
Gerard Earl, director for mall manager Colliers International, said systems had activated as expected and the mall had been evacuated promptly and swiftly.
Earl expected it would be open again by 9am on Saturday after it had been properly assessed.
He said there was a managed process underway to retrieve cars from the mall’s car park.