Fire Accidents at The Us Shopping Malls: a Case Study

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About this sample


Words: 1454 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018

Words: 1454|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018


Provision of adequate fire safety measures in a shopping mall is critical since they are accessed by individuals from all walks of life. Research indicates that safety measures in shopping mass are inadequately provided; therefore, serious damages are likely to occur in case of a fire. According to Kachenje et al (2010, p.6) most large shopping malls have insufficient number of facilities and fire control measures. Additionally, some of the facilities are not easily accessible or functioning at all. There are specific attributes that contribute to fire safety within shopping malls such as their design with wide exit points, big access routes and alert and mobile occupants. Shopping complexes have high chances of fire accidents because of the transient population (Kachenje et al (2010, p. 6). Each year, fire accidents are reported in various malls across the world. Below are three case studies of fire accidents that resulted in death, and property loss.

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One of the critical fire accidents happened in Aksaray underground shopping mall in Turkey in 1975. Reports indicate that the fire was due to an electric short circuit in one of the shops inside the mall. The fire fighters responded promptly; however, the nature of the fire made it hard for the fire squad to contain the fire (Arioglu, Anadol and Candogan nd, p.2).The fire fighters attempted to use fans to suck out the smoke but it was too dense. Also, the very high space made it hard for the squads to access an ideal location to fighting the fire. After a few hours, the fire squad gave up and shut off entrance points using wood, canvas and sand to block oxygen and let the fire self-extinguish. The fire squad created holes over the ceiling to hose water inside the building but the technique did not work. The fire continued for about 63hours (Arioglu, Anadol and Candogan nd, p.2).

Villagio fire began as results of a fluorescent tube light short-circuit. The bulb burst after the plastic components of the tube overheated (Khatri, Chatriwala and Mills 2013, p.10). Villaggio mall fire is among Qatar's worst tragedies whereby 19 people died most being children in a day-care center. The fire-fighters tried to gain access of the day-care through the roof of the mall to rescue people. However, delays resulted in death of the children due to smoke inhalation. Others died when the mall’ staircase collapsed. People could observe the smoke billowing from the shopping mall (Khatri, Chatriwala and Mills 2013, p.8). There was no exit to escape since both exit points were blocked by smoke. The alarm and sprinkler systems were not working properly. The thick smoke and heat hindered rescue mission, as well as the lack proper floor plans and malfunctioned sprinkler systems. The smoke spread all over the mall through the mall's air vents and along the ceiling. The smoke become thicker and more toxic after mixing with flammable paint used to decorate the mall. At first, shoppers seemed unbothered by the fire but they had no idea that the fire was spreading out of control. The smoke spread on the roof space, and vents. It’s common for smoke to be generated in huge fires. The hot and toxic gases tend to be harmful to the mall occupants and block fire-fighters interventions (Khatri, Chatriwala and Mills 2013, p.8).

The fire in Myer shopping centre led to total destruction of the Myer store and over 40 million dollars losses (Cordingley and Tullberg 2007, para.1). Reports indicate that the fire was as a result of an electrical fault inside the store. The structure of the store contributed to the fast spread of the fire. Half of the store was badly hit by smoke, however, it remained structurally firm. The heat produced by the fire was too hot such that the fire-fighters had to fall back briefly. The smoke from the building raised in a plume into the ceiling. When the smoke reached the ceiling, a smoke layer was formed. As observed from the below image, the volume of the smoke increased when it came into contact with air. The smoke from the building hindered fire-fighters efforts to rescue property inside the building. The smoke could be seen spreading through the roof of the building.

Smoke controls are engineered systems that utilize fans to produce pressure differences so as to hinder smoke movement. A smoke control system prevents smoke from spreading to stairwells, elevator, and means of egress or similar areas (Ball 1999, p.134-135). The system maintains a friendly environment before the evacuation process by fire fighters. Additionally, the control system prevents migration of the smoke from the initial point. The smoke control creates a tenable environment allowing the emergency response team to conduct search and rescue mission and to locate and fight the fire. Research indicates that installing a smoke control system results in life protection and reduction of property loss (Ball 1999, p.134-135). According to Ball (1999, p.136) "smoke control systems comprises automatic smoke release or extraction as well as the necessary screens." Smoke control system cools the temperature allowing occupants to breathe with ease and prevent structural damages by maintaining building materials and contents below their flash point.

Smoke is one of the critical problems generated by fire. Smoke results in life and property loss and damages around the fire site. Smoke contains airborne solid and liquid matter and gases generated during combustion. It takes a few minutes for smoke to fill a room. Thick smoke tends to obscure exit signs and doorways, complicating the escape process. From the three case studies especially, the villaggio shopping mall fire, it’s evident that smoke is the key killer in building fires. The villagio shopping mall incident resulted in death of 13 children inside a day-care whereby the fire did not reach. However, the children chocked because of too much smoke inside the building. Fire in a shopping mall results in many fatalities due to panic among the building occupants as they push to exit the fire scene. Determining the smoke movement in a shopping mall can be complex because of their size and complicated design. Therefore, rescue procedures tend to be hard. Currently, researchers examine move movement based on the fire spots in different locations inside a big shopping mall. Usually, shopping malls comprise several stores such as boutiques, food court, entertainment facility, or clothing and fabric stores.

Installation of a smoke control system should be among the major building design considerations. The smoke control systems play an essential role in building design. In large building such as shopping malls, the system should focus on protecting key escape routes. As the smoke from the building escapes, it should leave clear air to allow the occupants to move freely. In modern times, there are several design techniques to control smoke in large building. People should have the ability to access a safe escape route regardless of the location of the fire. In complex shopping malls, the most effective way of safeguarding an escape route is through use of smoke control systems. Smoke control systems are installed to ensure easy access to a free escape route and staircases to allow occupants to get out of the shopping mall fast and safe. Designing and installing a smoke control system can be complex in a multi-storey shopping centre compared to a single-storey building. Basically, shopping centres have several levels, complicated layouts with junctions as well as changing roof lines (Clark 2004, P.20).

From the villagio fire case study, it’s clear that the 13 children suffocated inside the day-care due to excessive smoke. The fire-fighters efforts to access the room were hindered by the thick smoke. The smoke blocked both exit points. Natural ventilation system inside the Villagio mall would have provided a safe escape route for the fire-fighters to save the children inside the day-care. The villagio shopping mall design should have included natural openings such as lobby vents, smoke shafts, and stair vents around the entire building. Also, existing windows and doors would have served as natural ventilation system. During the Villagio mall fire the smoke would have escaped through the openings to other non-fire areas. The suitable points should have been evaluated during the design stage of the mall.

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The smoke observed at the Myer shopping centre fire was so dense such that the fire-fighters were unable to rescue property inside the building resulting in over $40million dollars losses. Natural ventilation systems would have created a tenable environment for the fire-fighters as they entered the building to save the property.

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Fire Accidents at the Us Shopping Malls: A Case Study. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from
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