Official: Worker's torch sparks South Shore Mall fire

A demolition crew using a torch started a fire at the Westfield South Shore Mall Monday that forced officials to evacuate the Bay Shore shopping center, a fire official said.

Workers and shoppers from the 86 stores at the mall were evacuated shortly after 10:30 a.m., when a fire broke out in an area adjacent to a demolished Macy's store, fire officials and a mall spokeswoman said.

"It was a small fire inside a tenant space that was resolved quickly by the fire departments," said Vanessa Mitton, a marketing specialist for the mall's property owner, the Westfield Group.

There were no injuries, she said, and the mall was reopened around 12:30 p.m.

Assistant Chief John Ippolito Jr., of the Bay Shore Fire Department, said a demolition crew was using a torch to remove plumbing pipes from the site of the old Macy's store when the wall on the other side of the pipes caught fire.

The mall's Macy's store closed in March and is scheduled to open by the fall of 2013, according to published reports.

The fire in the backroom of the adjacent space, a Gifts & Gadgets store, left considerable smoke, fire and water damage, Ippolito said. The water damage was caused by the mall's sprinkler system, which helped keep the flames under control.

At least four fire departments -- Bay Shore, Brentwood, West Islip and Islip -- responded to a call, Ippolito said. The fire was under control by 11:15 a.m.

Ippolito said the Suffolk County Arson Squad is investigating, along with the Suffolk County fire marshal.

Mitton said workers also were evacuated from the Macy's construction site.

The fire marshal ordered the building evacuated to clear smoke from the interior and to conduct a safety inspection, Mitton and Ippolito said.

Doors to the mall were left open to clear the air inside, Ippolito said.

Mitton also said that as smoke cleared from the building, crews cleaned interior areas where automatic sprinklers had sprayed water.

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