Firefighters were dispatched on Monday evening, July 24, to a two-alarm fire at Irving Mall.
The alert initially came into the Irving Fire Department (IFD) at 9:17 p.m. as a smoke investigation. As soon as firefighters arrived to the mall, located at North Belt Line Road and State Highway 183, they noticed thick clouds of smoke and called for a larger response.
The smoke originated in an Xspress Electronics storage room. Firefighters initially had a difficult time locating the fire because of reduced visibility caused by smoke.
“If we see a lot of fire, in a sense it’s easy,” said Jack Taylor, Assistant Chief of Operations for the Irving Fire Department. “We know right where to go, we know how to attack it, it’s visible, and you know what you’re working with. The more difficult ones are the ones where you have a lot of smoke. If you have a lot of smoke and it’s really charged and thick, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. There’s a seat of the fire somewhere, so it’s very anxious trying to find where that is before it advances and gets out of control.”
According to Taylor, in smoke heavy situations where it is hard to see flames, firefighters feel around for heat to know if they are heading in the right direction. At the Irving Mall, however, firefighters did not register a change in temperature and felt the entire room was warm.
“The sprinklers that had gone off actually kept the smoke there and didn’t let it dissipate,” Taylor said. “It stayed there like a cloud and made it a take longer to find where the fire had started. By the time we got there, it was a relatively small fire. The sprinklers did a really good job and kept it at bay.”
A second alarm was activated to have fire staff on hand help evacuate the mall, which included mostly store employees and AMC theater patrons. According to Taylor, the second alarm was more of a precautionary measure because of the size of the mall, the number of employees and customers still inside, and the poor visibility caused by the thick smoke.
IFD has a set amount of equipment they send on an initial structure fire for a first alarm. Depending on the structure or how big the fire is, the commander on the scene will call for a second alarm, which brings double the equipment and manpower. Four alarms is the biggest call that can be made in Irving.
Should IFD ever run out of resources to battle a fire, they can call on neighboring cities for support. Mutual aid agreements with other Dallas County fire departments allows neighboring cities to assist one another when large or multiple emergencies exceed a city’s capacity. The cities share a master list of all of the equipment each department has available.
At Monday’s Irving Mall fire, the DFW Airport and Dallas Fire-Rescue were called to bring truck-mounted ventilation fans. These big fans push a high volume of air to help clear smoke from large structures.
The fire was officially under control at 10:20 p.m. and no injuries were reported. In total, 18 pieces of equipment were used from IFD, two from DFW Airport, and one from Dallas Fire-Rescue. The fire was contained to the storage room, and investigators are still determining the cause.
According to Taylor, a number of 911 calls were made early enough into the incident that helped minimize damage. His team regularly sees people stopping to take a picture or film an incident rather than calling 911, and recalled an extreme situation at an apartment complex fire in Irving a few months ago.
“A lot of people there expected everybody else was calling it in,” he said. “Nobody did, and the fire was very advanced before we were ever called. We always try to push the urgency, to let people know to call 911 first, and then film it if you want to.
“In this day of social media, people are quick to pick up their phones and start filming something and not think about calling 911. I’m always reminding people to make sure 911 is called first. Several people did call in [about Irving Mall] so that’s always a good sign.”